GENDER DIFFERENCES: Boys & Girls Learn Differently


[semester equivalent = 2.00 credits]



Brenda McKinney



Knowledge of research in brain based gender differences is one of the best tools a teacher can have. Now is the time to explore this timely topic!! Discover differences between the male and female brain that will transform how you teach and communicate. Explore teaching and learning strategies developed through current brain research and focused on gender differences as related to effective learning, interpersonal communication, motivation, and self concept.

No matter what age level you teach, you will want to take this class.  This course was designed to help you create and adapt activities, games, rituals and other learning innovations based on how boys and girls brains work best and what they need at different stages of school life. Your knowledge of research in brain based and gender based research will show you how to optimize each child’s learning abilities and also will help to reduce the number of children labeled as discipline problems, slow learners, or attention deficit.

This course will provide practical assistance in your efforts to design the ultimate classroom and you will leave knowing how to put these ideas into action in your classroom. Expect a life-changing experience! 


LEARNING OUTCOMES: Upon completion of this course, participants will have:

  1. An understanding of brain and gender based differences in anatomical structure, neurological development, and the chemical and hormonal climate in growing boys and girls.
  2. Enhanced knowledge of the reason for many discipline problems.
  3. An increased understanding of the roles of reading/writing/math/science and why boys or girls tend to do better in these areas.
  4. A chance to explore the current crisis in the US from lack of proper nutrition and physical activity.
  5. Learned how to combine structural innovations at the school level with the gender specific innovations needed in the classroom.
  6. Create innovations that will change the way you teach and ultimately, the children in your classroom.

Completion of all specified assignments is required for issuance of hours or credit.  The Heritage Institute does not award partial credit. 


Completing the basic assignments (Section A. Information Acquisition) for this course automatically earns participant’s their choice of CEUs (Continuing Education Units), or Washington State Clock Hours or Oregon PDUs. The Heritage Institute offers CEUs and is an approved provider of Washington State Clock Hours and Oregon PDUs.



Continuing Education Quarter credits are awarded by Antioch University Seattle (AUS). AUS requires 75% or better for credit at the 400 level and 85% or better to issue credit at the 500 level. These criteria refer both to the amount and quality of work submitted.

  1. Completion of Information Acquisition assignments 30%
  2. Completion of Learning Application assignments 40%
  3. Completion of Integration Paper assignment 30%


CREDIT/NO CREDIT (No Letter Grades or Numeric Equivalents on Transcripts)
Antioch University Seattle (AUS) Continuing Education Quarter credit is offered on a Credit/No Credit basis; neither letter grades nor numeric equivalents are on a transcript. 400 level credit is equal to a "C" or better, 500 level credit is equal to a "B" or better. This information is on the back of the transcript.

AUS Continuing Education quarter credits may or may not be accepted into degree programs. Prior to registering determine with your district personnel, department head or state education office the acceptability of these credits for your purpose.



The Boys and Girls Learn Differently Action Guide for Teachers. Michael Gurian

  • The Boys and Girls Learn Differently Action Guide for Teachers
    ISBN# 0787964859
    by Gurian, Michael, Ballew, Arlette C.

    Buy from Amazon


Text, The Boys and Girls Learn Differently Action Guide for Teachers, is approximately $14.95 from Amazon.



Assignment #1: Introduce Yourself

NOTE:  To gain a background in the subject matter, please complete the first 6 assignments.

  • Send each one, as you complete it, to Brenda McKinney at
  • As you go through assignments #1-6, keep a journal or notes on phrases, ideas, teaching strategies or projects that especially appeal to you.

Participants registered for the 400 & 500 Level Option: This journal will become the basis for changes in your own teaching, which you will consider and plan in Section B:  Learning Application portion of this course.

Introduce yourself with a background profile:

  • What led you to choose teaching as your profession?
  • Describe your current professional situation
  • What brings you the most joy in your work?
  • What led you to choose this class?
  • What outcomes do you hope to achieve through this coursework?
    Send to Brenda:, Subject line to read ‘Gender #1.’

Assignment #2: Boys and Girls Learn Differently

In the text, Boys and Girls Learn Differently read the Section: How the Brain Learns. Pay special attention to the inherent differences between boys’ and girls’ brains and a brief history of why there are brain differences.  Then respond to the following with a 2 page paper or a mind map:

  • What are the structural and development differences in the brains?
  • What role do chemicals and hormones play in the differences?
  • Why do boys and girls process emotions differently
  • Watch this video that addresses the controversial issue of gender and toys
  • What functional differences exist?
  • Watch this video that is pertinent especially for teenagers
  • What structural elements were built into the brain through development and design?
  • Watch this video link on differences and the controversies
  • What portions of this reading did you agree with and why?
    What was the most informative for you?
    Send to Brenda:, Subject line to read ‘Gender #2.’

Assignment #3: Applying Brain Based Gender Research

Read and review the section on applying brain based gender research.  Then respond to the following with a paper or a mind map:

  • What did you learn about academic performance and classroom behavior?
  • What distinguishes reading/ writing/test competencies according to gender differences?
  • How do psychological, learning, and behavioral disorders affect boys and girls differently?
  • Why does the maturity gap and hormones affect classroom experiences?
  • What role do aspirations, funding, violence and cultural bias play in gender differences?
  • What are the most significant findings in this section for you?
    Send to Brenda:, Subject line to read ‘Gender #3’

Assignment #4: Boys & Girls Learn Differently

Finish reading the text, Boys and Girls Learn Differently, keeping a journal as you read. Focus on the Special Education section and all other sections that apply to techniques to assist learners. Respond to the following with a 2-3 page paper, mind map or graphic organizer:

  • What parts were most significant for you in the reading?
  • What are things can teachers do to help learners with special needs?
  • What types of activities are most appropriate for you and what changes can you make for next year?
  • What aspects of your classroom are already modeling some of these techniques?
    Send to Brenda:, Subject line to read ‘Gender #4’

Assignment #5: Looking for Techniques to Improve Teaching

Reread through your notes on the math/science/reading/writing section.

Look for techniques for how all teachers can improve the teaching of reading/writing (all teachers) and math/science/spatial learning if applicable.

Then respond to the following with a 1-2 page paper, graphic organizer, or mind map:

  • Why are girls at a disadvantage in the spatial learning area?
  • What discrepancies exist in the reading/writing area?
  • What do boys and girls need that is the same and what do they need that is different?
  • What techniques can improve learning in each of the areas?
  • What can you do specifically within your grade level/teaching assignment to encourage learning?
    Send to Brenda:, Subject line to read ‘Gender #5.’

Assignment #6: Discipline the Differences in Boys & Girls

Reread your notes and the section on discipline paying special attention to the differences in boys and girls.

Then respond to the following with a 2-page paper, graphic organizer, or mind map:

  • What is the difference between aggression nurturance and empathy nurturance?
  • Why are boys 80-90% of discipline problems in the early grades? Does this trend continue?
  • What are techniques to prevent undisciplined behavior at all grade levels?
  • How should bullying be addressed at each grade level?
  • How does the number of female teachers, early brain development, and brain differences influence discipline issues?
  • What would you like to change in your classroom?
    Send to Brenda:, Subject line to read ‘Gender #6.’



In this section you will apply your learning to your professional situation.  This course assumes that most participants are classroom teachers who have access to students.  If you are not teaching in a classroom, please contact the instructor for course modifications.  If you are a classroom teacher and start or need to complete this course during the summer, please try to apply your ideas when possible with youth from your neighborhood, at a local public library or parks department facility,  (they will often be glad to sponsor community-based learning), or with students in another teacher’s summer classroom in session.

Assignment #7: Developing An Action Plan For Bonding & Attachment

Develop an action plan for bonding and attachment to remove emotional stress and create a more positive environment for both genders based on their differences.  Describe your action plan in a 2 page paper.
Send to Brenda:, Subject line to read ‘Gender #7.’

Assignment #8: Action Plan for Reading/Writing Gender Differences

Develop an action plan to address reading/writing gender differences at your grade level or teaching assignment.  Describe your action plan in a 2 page paper.
Send to Brenda:, Subject line to read ‘Gender #8’

Assignment #9: (500 Level ONLY)

In addition to the 400 level assignments, complete one the following assignment:

Option A)    Write a 2-3 page paper describing the structural innovations you can implement at your teaching/grade level based on the gender-specific innovations you have learned.
Send to Brenda:, Subject line to read ‘Gender #9-A.’
Option B)    Another assignment of your own design with the instructor’s prior approval.
Send to Brenda:, Subject line to read ‘Gender #9-B.’


Assignment #10: (Required for 400 and 500 Level)

(Please do not write this paper until you've completed all of your other assignments)

  1. What did you learn vs. what you expected to learn from this course?
  2. What aspects of the course were most helpful and why?
  3. What further knowledge and skills in this general area do you feel you need?
  4. How, when and where will you use what you have learned?
  5. How and with what other school or community members might you share what you learned?

Send to your instructor at their email address. Subject line to read  "(put course name here) Integration Paper"


Please indicate by email to the instructor if you would like to receive comments on your assignments.


Brenda McKinney, CEO of Vancouver, WA based BrainVolution, is a developer and dynamic facilitator of workshops that teach practical thinking and learning tools for raising student achievement with the brain in mind. She has trained educators throughout the Pacific Northwest and is a popular presenter because of her ability to motivate, make things fun, and teach practical techniques for the classroom that can be used immediately. Brenda continues to read hundreds of books and articles on the subject of neuroscience and searches for the answer to success for every student. Her work with at-risk students and those with reading problems have made her a popular speaker at the state, regional and national level.

Brenda is able to synthesize the new research and continues to address the role of how to use the latest findings to create high achievement classroom. She brings 30+ years of experience at the elementary, middle school, high school and university level as a mentor teacher, consultant, motivational speaker, university instructor, and reading specialist. Brenda has her Master’s in Education from Washington State University and is nationally certified in Brain Based Learning through the renowned  Jensen Corporation, led by Eric Jensen, a noted international spokesperson for neuroscience and education.


Brenda will inspire and motivate you with her energy, enthusiasm and knowledge. Her wisdom, techniques, and brain based approach to education will inspire you and challenge you to meet the demands of this ever changing world.



GENDER DIFFERENCES: Boys & Girls Learn Differently

Baron-Cohen, Simon. The Essential Difference. New York, NY: Basic Books, 2003.
This text is ground breaking and controversial. The author analyzes the research on the difference in the male female brains and also poses a revolutionary idea about the cause of autism. It is easy to read and enjoyable to read. If nothing else you will find the text provocative. This is written in layman terms so you will enjoy the read.

Brizendine, Louann. The Female Brain. New York, NY: Broadway Books, 2006.
I loved this book. It was great fun and I found that women, as well as men, have enjoyed reading the research. Ten years ago this book could not have been written. The ideas are certain to spark controversy but it is a must read, an owner’s manual for the brain for women. Pick up a copy, now in paperback.

Gurian, Michael and Patricia Henley. The Boys and Girls Learn Differently Action Guide for Teachers. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass, 2003.
This landmark book outlines the brain based theories that can be used to transform classroom and help both boys and girls learn better. This easy to use guide is based on the latest scientific research on the differences between boy’s and girl’s brains, neurological development, hormonal effects, behavior, and learning needs. All of the strategies were applied during a two year pilot program at the Gurian Institute. This book is essential for all educators. Boys and girls do learn differently.

Gurain, Michael and Kathy Stevens. The Minds of Boys. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass, 2005.
This wonderful text is readable and practical. It provides neuroscience and practical strategies. All educators need to read this book especially in light of the new research about why our boys are failing in school.

One of my other distance courses, “Teaching the Male Brain” uses this text.

Keddie,  Amanda. Teaching Boys: Developing Classroom Practices that Work. Allin & Unwin, 2008.
Practical strategies that work. Again another book addressing the fact that boys are struggling. Provides the latest research and tested practices that work!

Norfleet James, Abigail. Teaching the Male Brain. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, 2007.
This is probably my favorite text on teaching the male brain. The book offers a helpful overview of recent work in the fields of gender studies and educational policy. The author pays particular attention to biological research on the human brain and implications for education.  Anyone interested in education will find this book stimulating. If you are looking for ideas to help with males in the classroom, this will provide the answers. Best of all, there is a content specific section.

Medina, John. Brain Rules. Seattle, WA: Pear Press, 2008. (Rule 11)
This book is the latest in brain research and one of Medina’s brain principles is that the male/female brains are different. Exciting to see research connected to business and education and real science from the field of biology and neuroscience.