4 Things You Didn't Know About How a Girl Learns

GPS Blog
At GPS, everything is based on what is best for girls. From how they build curriculum to how they engage with students, GPS leaders and teachers consider the unique aspects of how girls learn to ensure students are set up for success in the classroom, after graduation, and beyond. 

Teachers are committed to understanding how girls learn best—and that begins with the girl. Consider these four things you didn’t know about how a girl learns:

1) Girls are highly relational.
In a school setting, that translates to strong peer-to-peer relationships, as well as the need for positive connections with instructors. Author Leonard Sax, Ph.D., writes, “Girls’ friendships are face-to-face, two or three girls talking with one another. Boys’ friendships are shoulder-to-shoulder, a group of boys looking out at some common interest.” These considerations are adapted at GPS to create an optimal learning environment.
According to a study from UCLA educational researcher Linda Sax, female students are more likely to tutor other students, as well as engage in group study sessions. Any visitor to campus will see GPS girls in groups studying, and alumnae often reference the connections they made with their teachers as mentors and guides. 
2) One-on-one conversations are important, and qualitative feedback is key.
So many girls are driven to success and perfectionism. To connect with teachers, it’s important girls have one-on-one conversations and receive positive, direct feedback. In one study authored by Young K. Kim and Linda Sax, girls were more likely to feel the positive effects of student-teacher interactions on their overall sense of well-being, emotionally, physically, and academically. Conversation can be central to the relationship. Girls at all-girls schools spend more time talking with their teachers outside of the classroom than do those at a coed environment.

3) Girls are more likely to have a fixed mindset.
According Carol Dweck, Ph.D., girls are more likely to have a fixed mindset, especially in math. A fixed mindset is the idea that one’s intelligence cannot be altered, even with effort. Students with a growth mindset believe their intelligence can be expanded with effort. But teachers and leaders can structure learning to help girls adopt a growth mindset. 

To create girl-focused strategies that appeal to a girl’s growth mindset, teachers engage students with methods that provide social learning opportunities and collaborative work. In a collaborative learning environment, teachers and leaders use dialogic teaching, or a way of teaching that uses discussion and talk to further learning. Dialogic teaching encourages students to explore together and reach consensus through thoughtful discussion. 

4) Girls’ brains develop differently than boys'.
Girls have a learning advantage in the language arts based on their larger hippocampus and other factors, including stronger neural connectors in their temporal lobes compared to boys. This may lead to greater use of detail in writing assignments, according to educational researcher Michael Gurian. Boys may tend toward excelling at abstract and physical spatial functions. To combat this biological tendency, teachers adapt each subject to how girls’ brains need to learn it. 

As Gurian writes in Boys & Girls Learn Differently: A Guide for Teachers and Parents, single-sex schools may provide an optimal environment for girls, removing psychosocial stresses. “As girls work with girls at this very difficult and vulnerable time, self-confidence can increase along with academic performance; girls, together, without hindrance from boys, learn to manage their own and each other’s transformations.” 

“To be successful, students need more than just a feeling of support. That support must translate into actions geared toward student success. Nearly 96% of girls’ school students report receiving more frequent feedback on their assignments and other course work than girls at coed schools.”
—Dr. Richard A. Holmgren, Allegheny College, Steeped in Learning: The Student Experience at All-Girls Schools
Additional References
National Coalition of Girls Schools. (2016, September 12). How Do Girls Learn Best? Retrieved from
National Coalition of Girls Schools. (2020, September 4). Girls' Learning Styles. Retrieved from