Tannen attempts to argue that there is need for teachers to shift their focus from the usage of teaching strategies that require use of language in classroom interaction. This is due to the fact boys and girls learn and use language differently. That is, the manner in which boys learn and use language inside their peer groups is totally different from the way ladies learn and use language. She expounds on this by explaining that a girl is in all likelihood to be best friends with another female just because of the fact that they speak to each other frequently and share secretes. Boys on the different hand do not rely on sharing secretes and talking frequently to make good friends. On the contrary, they perform their activities in groups and are more likely to be best friends with someone whom they do the most things with. She adds that, unlike girls, boys are fond of doing their activities centrally. This causes a diversity in a classroom set up.
In light of this, one can argue that girls are less likely to take part in classroom interaction compared to boys who would want to take control of the discussions and display their knowledge. Tannen outlines that anthropologists’ conclusion that women and men have completely different ways of lamenting when expressing pain. In addition, she points out that in a classroom context; men are more likely to criticize readings and might be dissatisfied by sympathetic conclusions (400). Girls on the other side prefer to take a soft approach and most likely include personal anecdotes in their perception.
It is agreeable that Tannen’s argument and her corresponding assertions concerning gender performance are correct. This is in view of how the classroom environment favors men at the expense of women when it comes to use of language. She proves a point a point by mentioning that the reason as to why men speak in class more than women is because the former appreciate the presence of other students in the classroom and enjoy the publicity (401). Women on the other hand prefer to speak to each other privately or in small groups of friends and not in public. In view of this, one may argue that women are disadvantaged and thus may not perform as good as their male counterparts.
Learning requires exchange of ideas and challenges from peers and teachers. If one does not express himself or herself especially in public, then there are chances their ideas may not be nurtured or mistakes corrected. Given that most women prefer to maintain silence and keep a low profile in class, they are less likely to learn as much as the boys do. Ultimately, they perform worse than their male counterparts. By writing that an individual can change his or her conversation style in order to respond to other people’s context; Tannen means that if one’s interest is taken into consideration, then they are likely to conform to the style used by other people (401). That is, people can change their preferences if the environment favors them. This corresponds with her argument. It does in the sense that women would participate in classroom conversations if only the teaching strategy used gave them room to express their ideas, questions and challenge others. An example of this would be creating small groups with mixed gender.
Tannen, Deborah. ““Gender in the Classroom: Teacher’s Classroom Strategies Should Recognize that Men and Women Use Language Differently”.” June 1991, pp. 309-403.