How Boys Learn

Teaching in Ways that Boys Learn Best

Studies show there are real differences between boys and girls in terms of brain chemistry, maturation, and how they learn best. As detailed in Michael Gurian’s book Boys and Girls Learn Differently, Laurie Allen at UCLA has actually “discovered structural differences in the brain,” while others have discovered functional differences. 

Rather than go into the brain science, we will share some practical applications of this research as implemented at Army and Navy Academy, truly a school built for boys and certified as a Gurian Model School. Our practices are based upon Gurian’s highly reputable research, as well as first-hand experiences that span over a century in single-gender education. As noted by Gurian, “Boys require more and varying stimulants to keep them attentive.” At our California boarding school, we employ a number of methods to help boys stay active, engaged, and motivated.

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First and perhaps foremost, we provide a structured and action-packed day, beginning with reveille at 6 am, formation, breakfast, then six classes with a break for lunch. After school, Cadets attend tutorial, followed by athletics, dinner, and a minimum of two hours of mandatory study time at night. The last hour in the evening is spent on grooming, room inspections and preparations for the next day. Daily structure stimulates motivation, goal-orientation, and time management skills.

Second, the teachers understand that “boys tend toward symbolic texts, diagrams, and graphs.” Incorporation of Smart Boards, interactive calculators, and other technologies in the classroom “stimulate the right hemisphere, which is where many boys are more developed.” Faculty at Army Navy hold office hours at night and conduct after-school tutorials, provide individualized assistance, and build personal relationships.

Third, we help boys focus on goals, both for college and life beyond, through our JROTC leadership program. Boys tend to “create structured teams,” “picking teams quickly and focusing right away on goal orientation.” Gaining rank is not facile at Army Navy. Top leaders attend a West Point-style Leadership Training Course at Camp Pendleton where Cadets rappel, navigate obstacle courses, and drill. Additionally, all Cadets participate in LET (Leadership Education Training) classes as a part of the curriculum. Character development is an integral component, reinforced in the classroom and practiced during Residential Life.

Fourth, we focus on physical activity, which “seems to help boys not only stimulate their brains, but also manage and relieve impulsive behavior.” Our small classes allow Cadets to move, interact, and engage in hands-on learning. After tutorial, they spend time outdoors on our Southern California beachfront campus, where they can join a club team or participate in a CIF sport. No one is exempt from balancing study with athletics. Cadets are on the move all day long.

Fifth, our teachers and military staff know that boys tend to be deductive in their approach to learning. Especially interesting is the fact that “boys tend to work out codes among themselves and within their own cognitive processes, and rely on coded language to communicate.” No wonder boys are excited to be at the Academy, where our personnel often speak in code. From 2:00 until 11:00, Cadets interact with military Residential Life Officers who speak in their “native” language – 10-4!

In summary, boys follow a unique learning curve that can be significantly enhanced if a school is focused on how boys differ. At Army and Navy Academy, we have found that a highly structured day which allows for plenty of physical movement and appreciates the cognitive, emotional, and social development of boys is the optimum learning environment for them.

As an all-boys military college preparatory school, Army and Navy Academy is fully committed to boys and how they learn, grow and mature into fine young men. We get boys moving, managing their time, setting goals, building teams, using deductive reasoning, and we even speak in code. Built for boys, with their unique DNA in mind, ANA is a game-changer.

Read more about our Academics and teaching methods in our Academic Profile.

All quotes excerpted from Michael Gurian’s How Boys and Girls Learn Differently.

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