The Effects of Single Gender Schools on Boys' Self-esteem and Academic Confidence
Boys are falling behind academically in many schools in the United States. Over that past thirty years, girls have surpassed males in academic achievement in all subject areas, including those traditionally thought of as easier for boys (mathematics and science). This achievement shift has been linked to teaching styles and practices in schools today, which often favor rely more heavily on female learning styles (Meyer, 2008). However, single gender schools are combating this sudden lack of academic achievement by teaching boys with techniques and practices thought to be more appropriate for boys learning styles and development. These schools are succeeding with boys on academic scales, but little research has been done on these boys’ self-esteem and academic confidence. Boys in mixed gender schools experiencing constant failure will continue a downward spiral of self-esteem and academic performance. Self-esteem has been widely accepted to be connected with academic success and they have a reciprocal relationship (Hamachek, 1995; Pajares & Schunk, 2001). This study contends that boys in a single gender campus, which focuses on appropriate teaching strategies and practices, will develop higher self-esteem in boys and thus find higher academic achievement. This study included 58 sixth, seventh, and eighth grade boys from two different Catholic parochial schools. The first school is an all-boy single gender campus, in which 39 students participated. The second school is a mixed gender campus with 19 participants. The participants’ self-esteem will be measured with the Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory, which breaks self-esteem into four subgroups. These subgroups include attitude towards self in social, academic, family, and personal areas of experience. Results of this study do not support the hypotheses that single gender schools would facilitate higher self-esteem in boys. No significant statistical differences were found within the four subscales or overall results. Furthermore, in this study, neither the single gender school nor the mixed gender school showed distinct advantages over the other regarding developing self-esteem. Limitations of this study include the relatively small sample size, the number of years that participants attended the school, only one gender being studied, and the additional family connections within parochial schools.