International Opinion

Boys as ‘Relational Learners’

By Richard Whitmire — November 29, 2010 1 min read
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Interesting piece in Education Week (password access) about international research regarding what helps boys learn. It’s all about forming relationships with teachers.

Frankly, that surprises me. I always thought those bonds would mean more to girls.

From the commentary:

As it happens, we now have better insight into the relative disengagement of boys from schooling and the corrective measures that dedicated teachers can take. In an international survey I recently conducted with Richard Hawley that reached 1,000 teachers and 1,500 adolescent male students in six countries, including the United States, we solicited narratives of "most effective practices" and "most memorable experiences" and were able to identify several underlying themes in the thoughtful and often deeply personal responses we received. Among the key components to approaches that work was the finding that boys, at their best, are "relational learners" and that the relationships teachers and students mutually forge precede their engagement in classroom lessons. This finding was found across geographical boundaries and various types of schools, at all grade levels, in all scholastic disciplines, and independently of the gender of the teacher. Fundamental to this necessary relationship-formation were a number of ways in which teachers establish a distinctive and enabling "presence" with their students. The survey results indicated that boys need to feel their teachers--their warmth, their mastery, their inspiration--before opening up to invest themselves in learning.

The opinions expressed in Why Boys Fail are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.