Research Proposal: Gender Segregated Math Classes in Middle School

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Gender-Based Education

For many decades there have been disparities in education along the lines of gender. Some of these disparities were as a result of sexism and an unwillingness to teach female students. However, in the current educational environment many of these disparities can be attributed to the fact that boys and girls simply learn differently. As such, adjustments have to be made as it pertains to teaching styles. These adjustments are particularly needed at the middle school level where subjects such as math and science become more difficult and female students start to lose interest. Gender segregation within the context of middle schools is a topic that has received a great deal of attention in recent years. In addition a great deal of attention has been focused on the disparity between boys and girls as it pertains to math scores at the middle school level.

The purpose of this literature review is to summarize the existing literature related to gender specific learning experiences in Middle School Students. More specifically the literature review will focus on the challenges associated with Middle School Education, the and overall achievement of students. In addition the literature review will summarize research related to gender differences in learning styles. Finally the research will focus on gender-based education in general and gender-based education in middle school in particular. The literature review will also provide a synthesis of the research found through the investigative process.

Challenges of MS Education and achievement overall

Since the inception of Middle Schools in the 1980's, controversy has surrounded the concept of a separate school for students entering early adolescents. The idea behind the development of middle schools was to alter traditional junior high school. Educators believed that middle schools would create an educational environment more consistent with the needs of children entering early adolescents. With the introduction of middle school also came new organizational and instructional practices such as the interdisciplinary team approach to instructing students ("Problems and Promise"). That is, students have different teachers for each subject as a way to prepare them for high school. In addition Dickinson (2001) argues that middle schools also came about because educators wanted to keep early adolescents away from the bad influences posed by older adolescents. In addition, educators believed that the introduction of middle school would expose students to college preparatory classes prior to entering high school. With this understood, middle school was established because of social and scholastic concerns (Dickinson 2001).

For many years educators have acknowledged the difficulties associated with middle school education that are not present with elementary school or high school. Indeed, early adolescence can be a difficult time for students. It is important to remember that the concept of Middle School is a relatively new one. According to an article entitled "Problems and Promise of the American Middle School" there are approximately nine million students in middle school. Middle school serves as "as an intermediary phase between elementary school and high school ("Problems and Promise...1). "

The article goes on to explain that middle schools have taken blame for many of the behavioral and academic problems seen in adolescents. In addition middle schools are often blamed for the disengagement that teen students have as it pertains to school and academic achievement.

In many school districts middle school is composed of students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades. However, in some districts middle school is composed of 7th and 8th graders. Although there has been a great deal of concern as it relates to the middle school concept and the problems that are present for middle school students, many of these issues remain unresolved. The next few paragraphs will focus on the challenges of Middle School and academic achievement overall.

One of the primary problems with Middle School is the issue of transition. Many students have attended a single elementary school where they are familiar with the teachers and know the other students ("Problems and Promise..."). However in middle school, a significant transition takes place because the children that attend middle schools don't all come from the same elementary school. Middle schools are made up of students from several different elementary schools ("Problems and Promise..."). With this being the case the transition can be difficult because students are often in classes in which they do not know any of the other students ("Problems and Promise...").

This can lead to huge problems as it pertains to how students transition from elementary school to middle school.

A book entitled Middle School and the Age of Adjustment reiterates the idea that transitioning from elementary school to middle school can be quite difficult for students. The author explains that students suddenly have to go from have one teacher to having as many as seven different teachers. Each teacher has a different style of teaching and different expectations. The author explains, "At age eleven, children now must adjust to seven teachers, seven personality types. Even if every teacher was a model of patience and helpfulness, adjusting to seven authority figures takes some time. For example, Mrs. a. may post the homework on the front board, and Mr. B. may post homework on the sideboard. As simple as this may sound, it is difficult for some eleven-year-olds to think expansively enough to adjust to this (Bernstein, 2002,14)."

Additionally, in middle school students have to be more organized than in elementary school because teachers aren't constantly reminding them of what assignments they are expected to complete. The process of becoming more organized requires help from teachers and parents. This is also a difficult aspect of the transition between elementary school and middle school (Bernstein, 2002).

Oddly enough the author also contends that one of the most difficult aspects of middle school is memorizing number combinations for lockers. The author explains, many students come to middle school not knowing how to open a locker. In middle school, students have two lockers; one for gym class and the other for the rest of their classes. Not being able to open their lockers often causes sixth grade students a great deal of panic and anxiety. This is just an added example of the problems associated with the middle school transition.

A book entitled Reinventing the Middle School also posits that there are serious issues and problems as it pertains to the middle school concept and instruction. The author argues two major challenges with middle school which are interdisciplinary teaching or team teaching and teachers who have not been instructed on how to teach early adolescent students. The author contends that the interdisciplinary approach is often difficult to implement because teachers do not know how to communicate with one another. Without communication such an approach is nearly impossible to implement effectively. In addition, teaching early adolescent students presents challenges that many teachers are not equipped to deal with. These students are going through a myriad of emotional, social and physiological changes that effect mood and behavior. As such the way in which they learn can also be affected.

A book entitled Focus on the Wonder Years: Challenges Facing the American Middle School, elaborates on the problem stating:

Unlike elementary and high school teachers, middle school teachers typically have not been trained to teach at the grade level they are teaching; rather, most have been trained to teach at either the elementary or the high school level. Middle school teachers certified at the elementary level may lack an in-depth knowledge of their subject area. Middle school teachers that were certified at the elementary or high school level may not understand the developmental needs of young adolescents or the instructional practices advocated for today's middle schools. Thus, there is a push to require middle school teachers to obtain specific certification. (Juvonen, 2004 73-74)

The authors further assert that many middle school teachers do not have enough knowledge about the subject matter that they teach. According to the book when compared to those who teach at the high school level, middle school science, social studies and math teachers are teaching subjects in which they have not been prepared. That is, they are teaching in subject areas for which they did not major or minor in college (Ingersoll, 1999; Juvonen, 2004) in addition a study conducted by the National Center for education statistics found that nearly 50% of all middle school students and more than 50% of students in impoverished middle schools have instructors who do not have at least a minor in the subject ("To Close the Gap, Quality Counts," 2003; Juvonen et al., 2004, 75).

The author explains further that the majority of the research on subject-matter-specific training has math as the subject of inquiry. In fact in their research Heaviside et al., (1998) found that having a teacher with a bachelors degree in mathematics increased mathematics achievements in eighth graders. However the same study found that the achievement of 4th-grade students was not improved when a teacher had a bachelors degree in mathematics (1998).

In another study, Chaney (1995) found… [END OF PREVIEW]

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