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Arguing Separate but Equal: A Study of Argumentation in Public Single-Sex Science Classes in the United States

Howard M. Glasser


Amended federal regulations have attempted to expand the circumstances in which single-sex classes are permissible in public schools in the United States. Applying a grounded theory methodology, this ethnographic study investigated students’ grades and the discursive practice of argumentation in an all-boy and an all-girl science class taught by the same teacher at a public co-educational middle school in the United States to explore whether they learned the same science. Although the classes received similar grades, the boys gained greater exposure to argumentation, a skill that could assist them in future science pursuits. The emerging theory is that single-sex settings can construct differences between the sexes, possibly aiding the development or maintenance of differences between boys’ and girls’ interest and performance in science. This study highlights the concern that the recent increase in single-sex offerings in the United States could impact equity goals and gender-related outcomes.


single-sex education; middle school; argumentation; public schooling; gender differences; equity

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