What makes a great teacher?


Workshop

What are the characteristics of a great teacher of girls? What are the characteristics of a great teacher of boys?

Today it’s common to hear people say “Great teaching is great teaching.” But that’s demonstrably untrue. The teacher who is most effective with most of the girls is sometimes a complete failure with most of the boys, and vice versa. What are the characteristics of a great teacher of girls? And how is that teacher different from a great teacher of boys? How important is the teacher’s own gender – female or male – as a predictor of effectiveness in a girls’ classroom, or a boys’ classroom? Over the past decade, substantial research has been conducted on these topics. The good news is that almost every teacher can become more effective, both with girls and with boys, if they incorporate the findings of this new research.

We begin with recent research showing that while more than 80% of American teachers believe that they are equally effective with girls and with boys, in reality most teachers are either significantly better with girls than with boys, or significantly better with boys than with girls. We then explore the evidence regarding the characteristics of a great teacher of girls and how those characteristics differ from those of a great teacher of boys. The good news is that you can be both a great teacher of girls and a great teacher of boys. The first step in becoming more effective is to understand the differences. Bottom line:  there are no significant differences in curriculum between the two, but there are substantial evidence-based differences in pedagogy.  In other words:  The differences between great teaching for girls and great teaching for boys are not in WHAT you teach, but in HOW you teach.

Part of the workshop is devoted to the teacher-student relationship. The best strategies for building a good teacher-student relationship are different with girls compared with boys, and differ significantly from one girl to the next and from one boy to the next. Very few schools of education teach this material, but I have learned it well over the past 17 years. I have visited more than 400 schools over the past 17 years.

Some people respond to this topic by guessing that they already know the content. They say, “He’s just going to suggest teaching girls by talking about shopping and teaching boys by talking about sports.” Not so. Such a gender-stereotyped approach is seldom effective, for several reasons. One reason is that many girls do not enjoy shopping, and many boys don’t enjoy competitive sports. You can get an overview of the material I present in this workshop in chapter 2 of my book Boys Adrift and chapter 5 of my book Girls on the Edge.

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