Saturday, November 15, 2008

Boys education: Balancing the differences

The Kings School (in Sydney) hosted an interesting conference in October, The National Boys’ Education Conference with the theme of “Balancing the Differences”.

The conference covered a variety of different topics and included talks from a number of key speakers. Many of the major addresses are available from school website. These include talks by:

Dr Adam Cox who dealt with the relationship between communication skills and social control in boys' emotional growth (MP3 here).

Mr Michael Furdyk who talked about the impact of technology on the changing world of boys (MP3 here).

Dr Tim Hawkes who talked about what we should be teaching boys in schools but probably are not (MP3 here).

Dr Andrew Martin who discussed the significant role of motivation in learning (MP3 here).

Some of the talks covered topics that challenged participants to consider the complexity of gender differences, as well as the relationship between the cognitive and social characteristics and skills of boys. For example, Dr Adam Cox (family psychologist from the USA) cited research that reveals a strong relationship between cognitive ability and emotional well-being. He suggested that the evidence shows that girls find it easier to understand and develop empathy and more complex social skills compared to boys. He suggested in his talk that parents and teachers need strategies to help boys develop empathy. He commented:

"We continually worry about boys' grades or whether they can get into a good university but what's really at stake is the moral and social development of boys: we're raising and teaching boys to live and work in a changed world where they'll no longer work the land, they'll work the phones."

He pointed out that boys are slower to realise that developing social skills isn’t just about becoming more popular, but rather, such skills are in his words “a bridge to the world at large, a world larger than yourself."

He suggested that research indicates that boys who can regulate their behaviour and become empathetic and considerate, were also more effective learners. He also argued that the best way for boys to learn empathy was through involvement in serving others, such as doing volunteer work with welfare organisations or other community-based groups.

I will review the work of some of the key speakers at the conference in more detail in a future post.

Related links

For all posts that deal with boys education on this blog click here.

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