Workshop: Boys and girls learn differently

Michael Gurian, a New York Times bestselling author, will offer his insights on the differences between boys and girls at a free workshop Wednesday, Feb. 8 at McClintock High School.

By Diana Whittle

Not only are boys different anatomically than girls; they also learn differently. That’s the view of Dr. Michael Gurian, The New York Times’ best-selling author. He will bring his message about gender differences to Tempe at a public event from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 8 at McClintock High School.

The free workshop is sponsored by the Tempe Union High School District as part of its efforts to provide resources to families to cope with the parenting of teens and to improve the emotional wellness of youth.

Gurian gained initial renown when his first book, “The Wonder of Boys,” gained national recognition. He is a marriage and family counselor in private practice in Washington state and the author of 28 books, published in 22 languages. 

He describes himself not as an academic, but as a “social philosopher” who pioneered efforts to bring neuro-biology and brain research into homes, schools, corporations, and public policy.  The Gurian Institute, which he co-founded, conducts research internationally, launches pilot programs, and trains professionals. 

Recently, the headquarters of The Gurian Institute moved to Chandler, where Katey McPherson is the new executive director. McPherson spent 20 years as an educator and principal in the Valley.

Several years ago, McPherson attended one of Gurian’s conferences and was “blown away at the accuracy of his research.”

“In my experience his work hits a nerve and will resonate with teachers,” said McPherson. “I became certified through his institute and immediately used some of his concepts in my day-to-day interactions with students.”

McPherson eventually became an employee and now assists Gurian in sharing his concepts in workshops and seminars all across the country. While in Tempe, Gurian will be speak about “The Minds of Boys and Girls” and share information on ways to improve the educational and behavioral outcomes of students.

She says TUHSD is anxious to serve as a resource to families as they cope with the stress of raising and educating children.

“Superintendent Dr. (Kenneth) Baca is to be commended for his interest and support of the social and emotional challenges that many families face, particularly with the popularity of cell phones and social media,” said McPherson. “Part of the workshop presented on Feb. 8 will be suggestions on getting kids to unplug.”

McPherson says that our educational system is failing boys because they can’t sit still for long stretches of time and thrive in learning environments that are experiential and hands-on.

“This is one reason why STEM education is a natural for boys. They lose interest in classroom lectures after about 90 minutes,” said McPherson. “Boys bond well with movement and girls bond better with words.”

In fact, Gurian’s research found that the female brain processes words on both the left and right side of the brain, while the typical male processes words only on one side. This phenomenon seems to be true across cultures and with diverse upbringing.

He says that education needs to respond to these gender differences for the best learning environment. In fact, Gurian has re-designed classrooms to allow more intentional movement during the day.

By the time students reach high school their thoughts and behavior patterns are more ingrained so Gurian hopes to train adults to learn the different educational needs that boys have from girls, so they can be implemented at the elementary level, explained McPherson.

“He will offer the audience new strategies to address gender issues and hope for improving educational outcomes in our schools.”  No reservations are needed for the event, but for more information visit the district’s website at

McClintock High School is at 1830 E Del Rio Drive.



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