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Male learning styles - a teacher's perspective

  1. Nov 11, 2011 #1
    Apparently my last post was seen as 'posting nonsense' so I will try to elaborate more constructively.

    In it, I asked, "How much of the male domain is the spirit of the explorer, the adventurer, the frontier man?"

    The reason I ask this question is because I teach disconnected teenagers (15-18yo), those who feel displaced by the high school system, or who have behavioral or conformity issues. On a daily basis I question myself about their interest in the curriculum, most especially the boys.

    We often discuss making the curriculum relevant, which is difficult with many of the outcome requirements being so dry. I talked with a teacher colleague and expressed the idea that perhaps the male psyche is often geared towards exploring, adventure and pushing the frontiers. I considered this because of how man has done those very things, up until only recent times. In this modern era, the frontiers are more esoteric.

    In Australia, at the moment, men in their late teens and early twenties are increasingly turning to drink and violence. It makes me wonder if the caveman within us is breaking out through lack of stimulus, in terms of adventure and frontier work.

    But back to my troubled teenagers, I've been trying to think of ways, within our very tight budget, to appeal to these aspects. Sometimes I think that the people who write the parameters for the curriculum expect these kids to have the maturity and stability of adults, let alone regular high school kids.

    Was that sufficiently elaborated this time?

    I would love the input of people here, especially if you've had to cater to such students.
    Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 11, 2011 #2


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    Crikey! I'd read a piece by Gillard about the high proportion of teens and young adults needing 'services' from the community/government. If it's as high as 20-25%, something is very wrong.

    One will find similar concerns in all the major industrial/developed nations. I've been through Europe and to Asia, and I've seen the same problems of disconnectedness or misconnectedness, the latter embracing popular culture or alternative as a way of avoiding the pain/stress of apparent harsh reality.

    Unfortunately if teens are disconnected, then they've probably been evolving that way over a decade or so, and the longer someone is adrift, the harder it for them to reconnect, assuming they want to reconnect.

    Education and love of learning starts in the home. Inquiry and curiosity are necessary.

    Based on my experience, a minority of folks are explorers, adventurers, frontierpersons.

    One group of adults and students/teens is involved in ecological project in Western Port, Vic - http://www.seagrass.com.au/

    There are many other possibilities.
  4. Nov 11, 2011 #3
    Wow, what a great link. I can see some worthwhile possibilities there. (Must get a hold of the John Clarke video.) Thanks much for your words and that link.

    As for disconnectedness, one of the less mentioned reasons for Community VCAL is to keep school-refusers "connected" rather than drift further away from the main stream. We do have some success, but many of those kids just need a year to do some growing up. Some of them end up back at high school, which is a great outcome, while the bulk of them begin looking for apprenticeships, which at 15 to 18 and without a year 9 or 10 pass, is difficult for most. At the other end, we have kids who struggle with criminal elements, drugs and alcohol issues, and some pretty nasty childhoods. They need a normalized atmosphere with less of the strictness of school to give them back some hope. (Of course there's more to it than that, but I won't write an essay in here.)
  5. Nov 11, 2011 #4


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    I was fortunate that during the first 4-5 years of my life I lived in two small coastal towns. Most of my time was spent outdoors wandering about, climbing trees, exploring, walking to the beach or docks, or gardening.

    Later I lived in the suburbs of Melbourne. I could still climb trees and garden, but the beach was a weekend trip.

    I was very interested in learning at school, and one of my classmates and I competed academically. I also enjoyed playing footie with friends. I also learned to ride a bicycle, so I could go further from home.

    Just before I turned 9, we moved to the US. I still enjoyed school and became interested in science - physics and chemistry - and primarily aspects of nuclear and astrophysics/astronomy.

    Later in junior high and high school (Forms 1-6), I participated in summer programs at a local university. I talk courses in math and science, German, and various of the humanities. My idea of fun was to spend a Saturday or Sunday at the library just browsing the stacks and reading. Otherwise, I'd be off to the beach, or park, or out bicycle riding, or playing soccer. Actually, I'd ride my bike to the university or downtown library.

    There's a lot out there in the world to explore, and I received a lot of encouragement from my parents.

    On the other hand, I had some friends who came from troubled homes, or who had parents who didn't seem to care much about what they did as long as they didn't get into trouble.
  6. Nov 11, 2011 #5
    I was a little like some of the kids I teach, when growing up. No one thought I was very smart, so neither did I. But looking back, I understood things quickly and wanted to move on to the next discovery. So when they asked us to do 20 quadratic equations for homework, along with 10 matricies and some other things that I instantly understood, I found the repetition tedious. With my lack of completion came the notion that I was not the brightest of students. It was only decades later that I discovered that the opposite was true, yet my low opinion of my capabilities had taken its toll. I've turned that around now in my later years, but it makes me wonder just how many kids going through Community VCAL are facing similar thoughts. I already know that several of those that I teach are very intelligent, yet they think of themselves as dumb. And it's difficult to convince them otherwise.
  7. Nov 11, 2011 #6
    I wouldn't characterize that as the "caveman" breaking out. Primitive societies are actually essentially stable and don't foster random violence or craziness. Here in North America, the Native Americans didn't start acting like that until they were displaced by Europeans and had their whole lifestyle put in jeopardy. The European influx was overwhelming, unstoppable. Surges in drinking and random violence, in so far as that occurred, came after they'd been pushed out of their usual territory onto other Indian's territory, and had their food supplies compromised. It was "acting out" in frustration, despair, bewilderment.

    I can't imagine what might be going on in Australia to make younger guys feel that way, but it seems something must be, and I suppose your first task would be to identify what it is. Here in the US teenagers and young adults strike me as more passive and compliant than ever (I'm 56), and I attribute that to them having their attention diverted into video games, the internet, and digital entertainment in general.
  8. Nov 11, 2011 #7
    From a weird perspective going to school and learning has turned into a sort of manufacturing cost/benefit thing.
  9. Nov 11, 2011 #8
    Hi narrator,

    I relate a lot to your idea of pushing fronteirs, but in a way that is unique to myself. I've always been smart, knew I was smart, and did well in school, but the reason for a lot of that has to do with my parents, and the idea of success that I was given. I always wanted to go further or learn something extra, but only if it was interesting to me.

    On a very similar note, I have been and still am very competitive. I feel like I've always had this energy for winning or being better or more skilled (immature I know...I've been working on it haha). I feel like this was the process which I used to focus my energy. At points in my life I would almost describe winning as an obsession to me. I'm getting a little off topic, but allow me to bring it back together. Without the idea that I was smart, I wouldn't have had the confidence to pursue learning. I guess staying ahead of the curve was what I always used for motivation. I didn't want to downgrade to the average kid (I'm sounding like a terrible person :redface:)

    But my idea for you is to introduce some competition into the group of boys that don't seem to be motivated. Winning is fun, and losing is not. Both are methods of motivation. However, and this probably the same however that you are having, a lot of people shy away from competition, and it can alienate people, or put pressure on people who don't want it. If you can find a way to spice it up with a little competition, but make sure that the intensity threshold doesn't oppress anybody, I think you might spark some more interest.
  10. Nov 11, 2011 #9
    I'm a 30yo boy, and did (and have gone back and am still doing) my schooling in Australia, and I would have characterised myself as a disconnected teen at the time.

    I still have a fair bit of a caveman in me now, I think :P If I were designing a high school curriculum for boys, I would throw them out in the bush, often, teach them orienteering, set some objectives, make it competitive. I liked maths and physics at school, and I willingly signed up for those subjects and did pretty well, and so did many other boys, but I felt a distinct lack of physical activity at school, and I got into trouble regularly for over enthusiastically involving myself in locker room brawls, and full contact football and that sort of thing.

    It's not every boy though, I know plenty who don't like getting their hands dirty, can't fix a trailer to a car, or tie a knot, or stay upright on a bicycle, and don't care to, but there's a fair percentage of us who just want to get out there and experience the rough and tumble. Not at the expensive of text book learning, that's important, but as a concurrent activity.
  11. Nov 11, 2011 #10
    As a society, we often talk about how it comes back to parenting, but that does little to answer the needs of these teens who have had poor or even terrible parenting.
    On one hand you're right, zooby, the throwaway "caveman" line is not very accurate, though I wouldn't characterize any of the indigenous populations as cavemen, or even close to the depiction of early man. (Mind you, even the word caveman has been called inaccurate - when did we live in caves? lol)
    It makes me wonder at times too, with our economy doing so well. But it's more a feature of outer suburb, middle to low socioeconomic pop's. That and the idea that drinking has become more than just regular weekend sport for some. (Perhaps we should up the drinking age from 18 to 21 like in the US.)
    Not weird at all.. and I would agree, at least from what I have seen here in Australia.
    I agree, competition is good as a learning device, though it only works with some. With the kids I deal with, any competition tends to polarize the group, with the sporting types usually taking to the challenge and the rest feeling defeated just at the mention of such a thing. There can be ways to introduce it so that it doesn't look like competition and gives some a little boost, and then there are those who disconnect at the slightest idea of anything involving participation.

    One of the things I learned when I studied teaching, was "learning styles" and how each person engages differently. (VAK - Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic, at its most basic) That's an avenue I'm trying to do more with.
  12. Nov 11, 2011 #11
    Yes! We need to do more of this. Community VCAL is run on a shoestring budget, which means, if we want to bus the kids anywhere, we often can't get the bus. Any excursion beyond 1km away requires a parent permission slip (which isn't easy with half the parents). We do get them up and doing "icebreakers" and other physical activities in class, but the hurdles to activity based learning, outside the classroom, are numerous. On the flip side, I'm hoping to get more happening with things like the seagrass thing Astronuc pointed to. And back to learning styles, we're trying to create separate activities to cater for different learning styles, and having some things for those who respond to competition is a good idea. :)
  13. Nov 11, 2011 #12


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    In such cases, those students need an adult mentor and a lot of positive support.

    Young folk need to know that they do matter to older folk, that they do have a place in the world, and that they can succeed. Life's journey is difficult, and so early near the beginning, it's difficult to see the path up ahead.

    It's a shame the kids aren't encouraged to go walkabout.

    I'd also recommend seeking ideas from CSIRO.
  14. Nov 11, 2011 #13
    Yes, one of the things we seek to find is a mentor, whatever the relationship (boss, coworker, friend, football coach etc).

    Again with the great links!!
    Thanks cobber :)
  15. Nov 12, 2011 #14


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    I'd say this is a relevant question to the overall condition of man, but is not the issue you are facing.

    I am a qualified teacher and during my teacher training, which was required to have pracitice in every age group, I was taken aback as to how completely useless the school experience is for around 30% of the boys past 12 years old.

    For those that have noticed this, such as you and I, I expect there are as many ideas on the problem and fixes as there are people who have noticed. But I have given it thought, and as a qualified teacher I feel some degree of experience to feel my comments should be given due regard:

    The condition of man is fundamentally dominated by two factors [sub-consciously, or otherwise]; the instinct to survive, then the instinct to breed. To get to the more 'heady' and noble notions of the development and betterment of mankind requires an order of magnitude greater experience and knowledge possible at the school level. So we are left with the instinct to survive, then the instinct to breed!

    School only offers opportunities for the latter instinct, though this then tends to interfere with, if not arrest, the capacity to take on learning!

    Therefore we are left with needing to satisfy the instinct to survive. There is no sense of this, as the disillusioned young man trudges to his place of 'learning' each day, there is no sense and no feedback at all that this will impact on his future survival. You have to intellectualise the relationship between learning and surviving, and this just doesn't happen in, say, 20 to 30% of cases.

    I also think it impacts the breeding instinct because going to school does not stimulate the sense the self-worth. Being a school boy just isn't up there in most young boy's idea of showing you are a worthy breeding partner!! So, again, there is an intellectualisation between why going to school increases your chance at successful breeding.

    My prescription is simple. And perhaps I would not have posted this excepting that it is timely along with something that Chris Woodhead (ex-head of the UK education watchdog) came out with recently; he was reported to be suggesting that children should be given the opportunity to work from an early age. He gave an age of 14, which I think is about right but I'd tend to say 'whenever they are ready'.

    There is no problem coming back into education at a later age, but for most 13-30year old males, finding a worthwhile vocation in life that the rest of society values and [especially the females] respects is head-and-heels more important than going to school or climing Everest.
  16. Nov 12, 2011 #15
    I was thinking the same thing but I am not sure it is very wise considering the sort of psychology that Narrator is talking about. Loss and failure, which are fairly definite in competitions, may only push them away if they already have issues with loss and failure that they are apparently already doing a poor job of dealing with. Perhaps more "team" oriented activity would be preferable.
  17. Nov 12, 2011 #16
    I tend to agree, though I'm not sure to what degree. Before the Industrial Revolution, boys worked alongside their fathers from a young age. I reckon that's how our psyche evolved. And ever since the IR, we've gone against the genetic code by keeping kids in school til 18 or longer. Just an opinion.
  18. Nov 12, 2011 #17
    Team activities have limited success. Like the movie cliche where the dorky kid gets picked last, these kids sometimes shy away from such participation, possibly because they doubt people will want them on their team, even if we choose for them.

    But the suggestion has certainly prompted me to think about how we could do team activities better. :)
  19. Nov 12, 2011 #18
    Since Australia is such a big country, I'm guessing there is plenty of room for individuality. Usually, I'd think, individuality means doing things the hard way.
  20. Nov 12, 2011 #19


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    And there's the little matter that most of the outback is desert - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deserts_of_Australia

    The along the northern coast is the potential to encounter salt water crocodiles, or fresh water crocodiles in the inland streams and billabongs.

    In the oceans are a variety of exceptionally poisonous fish, or the blue ring octopus, or the box jelly fish, or the great white sharks, primarily out west.

    And there are numerous poisonous snakes.

    So one has to really know the land. Nevertheless, I never worried about any of that growing up on the south coast. We just had to contend with bull ants and bluebottles.
  21. Nov 12, 2011 #20


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    I spent a sabbatical in Adelaide. Those bluebottles are disgusting. They do not even fly away when you wave at them. I resorted to wearing a fly net!

    My wife was bitten by a brown snake there. I hear it is the most deadly snake in the world (because it is so prolific). Fortunately for her it did not appear to have envenomated, and she was OK.

    I would not have fancied going off to do any 'team-building' adventures in the wilds, unless I was confident I knew what, and how to deal with, the nasty beasties that live out there!
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