Are Single-Sex Schools a Good Idea for Young Boys and Girls?

While the number of single-sex public K-12 schools has grown in recent years, a new study finds that parents are choosing to send their children to these schools based on outdated theories of differences in how girls and boys learn. A survey of parents and teachers of children who attend single-sex schools found that there is a general belief that differences in boys’ and girls’ brains affect the way they learn and that single-sex schools can achieve better results if they tailor the curriculum to a single gender.

Meagan-PattersonMeagan M. Patterson, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Kansas and a co-author of the study, says that “we’re finding evidence that teachers and policy makers endorse the idea that girls’ and boys’ brains are different and that they learn differently. And that can lead to gender stereotyping rather than expanded opportunities.”

The authors say that this stereotyping, based on unsound theories of brain differences, can lead to girls being steered away from science and mathematics and boys receiving reduced focus on the arts and humanities.

Dr. Patterson is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in developmental psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Patterson co-authored the study with Erin Pahlke, an assistant professor of psychology at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, and Rebecca Bigler, professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin.

The study, “Reasoning About Single-Sex Schooling for Girls Among Students, Parents, and Teachers,” was published in the journal Sex Roles. It may be accessed here.


Filed Under: Research/Study


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