Mr Kemp NZ

Closing the Gender Gap in Education – 5 ways to engage boys in learning

Following up from the honor of being selected in Huffington Posts Top 12 Global Education Blogs of 2014/2015 I have been chosen again in this amazing group and for 2016/2017 will be contributing to Huffington Post’s Education blog once a month. This month we look to answer the following highly controversial question “What are the best examples you have seen of teachers closing the gender gap in education?” – here is my response:

Throughout my schooling, the expectations put on me by my teachers were low in comparison to my female classmates, this was obvious! From a young age, I learnt that being ‘smart’ or being ‘academic’ wasn’t the be all and end all, I believe this was mostly because of my gender. I felt more pressure to perform in my chosen sports than I did academically. From this, I learnt the attitude that when it comes to learning, a pass is a pass and that is all that matters – “C’s get degrees”.

It is widely known and stated – girls perform stronger than boys across most levels of schooling in most countries around the world. I am interested in how we can close the gender gap by providing a fairer and more equitable environment for learning. In this short article, however, I will be focusing on closing the gender gap in education by engaging boys in the classroom. There are so many other angles I could take, but with a small word limit, I have focused in on one issue.

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Image Source: http://www.oecd.org/els/soc/forum2012.htm

One reason I got into education was to make a difference. In particular, to change the typical stereotypes around boys in education. Many boys in our school system need a positive male role model in their life and as a male educator, I can provide this. Boys need to see real application of skills and need to be engaged in a variety of ways.

Here are 5 ways to engage boys in your classroom, to help close the gender gap:

  1. Engage boys in reading (Reading is one of the most significant gaps in achievement between boys & girls). By providing opportunities to read a variety of texts about a more diverse range of topics. Reading in gaming environments, for example, can be a form of material that suits many boys interests.
  2. Create a learning environment that allows students to move and be active. An environment where students can choose their space gives boys, in particular, an opportunity to move around and find spaces that suit their needs. Encourage active learning activities where sitting still for a long period of time is limited.
  3. KISS (Keep it Simple Silly) – don’t over-complicate things. Keep things simple and give step-by-step instructions. Boys attention spans are often lower than girls, so they need to be in environments where there are less distractions and less complex instructions to follow. Boys concentrate best, in general, when they follow steps A to Z without distraction (Rich, 2000).
  4. Promote strengths – Studies by the OECD show that boys perform stronger than girls in Mathematics (the only area). Creating positive attitudes to learning in areas that boys excel can positively impact the effort they put into other areas. Build up their confidence and engage them in ways that show off their strengths across other curriculum areas.
  5. Get more males into education – Boys need male role models. It is that simple! We need to encourage more male teachers to get into education to be there to promote and encourage a positive learning culture for boys by men.

What are you doing to engage boys in learning to help close the gender gap in your school? Please share, I would love to learn from you!

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Craig Kemp

Craig Kemp

I am a passionate Head of Educational Technology at a large International School in Singapore. I am a lifelong learner, dream creator and thought leader. I love to inspire others and find inspiration. Co-founder of #whatisschool, #asiaED edchats and #pubPD.

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  • […] Craig Kemp (@mrkempnz) says one of the reasons he got into education was “to change the typical stereotypes around boys in education.” He believes boys in his school system need “a positive male role model in their life” and “need to be engaged in a variety of ways”. This month, Craig shares 5 ways to engage boys in classrooms to help close the gender gap. Read More. […]

  • Hey Craig – good topic. I’ve taught in boys’ schools, co-ed schools, and now I’m in a girls’ school (one of Nu Zild’s highest achieving ones according to the NZ Herald). I’m also the product of a great boys’ school. I’ve genuinely loved all three types but for very different reasons.

    Your suggestions are good ones. Structure is something most students like/crave (it’s a continuum from hate to crave) – boys need it more I think. They also like to compete against each other more. The girls at my current school are super successful because of the help and support they get from their friends. I’d struggle to write that sentence with boys substituting for girls.

    Fabulous news about the global reach of your blog! Go you good thing!

  • […] Craig Kemp (@mrkempnz) says one of the reasons he got into education was “to change the typical stereotypes around boys in education.” He believes boys in his school system need “a positive male role model in their life” and “need to be engaged in a variety of ways”. This month, Craig shares 5 ways to engage boys in classrooms to help close the gender gap. Read More. […]

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