Evidence-Based Education

Another shibboleth bites the dust. Have you ever heard (dinner parties?) that girls do better in all girl classes? If so, this is correct – there is indeed such an association. But the observational studies do not compare like with like – the comparison groups are not equivalent since single sex schools tend to have more selective intakes than their controls. So we need within school comparisons or, even better, RCTs. There is one example of each in Hattie’s monumental study (pages 96-97),[1] – Marsh & Rowe [2] and Signorella, Frieze & Hershey.[3] In both cases there were – wait for it – no advantages for all girl classes on educational attainment or career choices, and in the former study, the point estimates were negative for the brightest girls. Likewise, boys did not perform differently in all-male vs. mixed sex classes.

— Richard Lilford, CLAHRC WM Director


  1. Hattie J. Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement. Oxon, UK: Routledge, 2009.
  2. Marsh HW, & Rowe KJ. The Effects of Single-Sex and Mixed-Sex Mathematics Classes Within a Coeducational School: A Reanalysis and Comment. Austral J Educ. 1996; 40(2): 147-62.
  3. Signorella ML, Frieze and Hershey. Single-Sex versus Mixed-Sex Classes and Gender Schemata in Children and Adolescents: A Longitudinal Comparison. Psychol Women Quart. 1996; 20: 599-607.



2 thoughts on “Evidence-Based Education”

  1. You may remember that CLAHRC pilot conducted their own RCT in schools, although was not looking to assess gendar/selection. This study was recently published in BMJ Open and showed that the educatioal intervention appeared to be effective in reducing mental health stigma. Worth a read, news blog subscribers:

    Chisholm K, Patterson P, Torgerson C, Turner E, Jenkinson D, Birchwood M. Impact of contact on adolescents’ mental health literacy and stigma: the SchoolSpace cluster randomised controlled trial.
    BMJ Open. 2016 Feb 19;6(2):e009435. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2015-009435.

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