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Research to support single-gender ensembles

Does anyone know any good research sources that support single-gender ensembles?
I am putting together a presentation for my Board of Education to change the current structure of the choral program at the high school.  Right now, there are three, similarly sized, mixed ensembles at the high school, and the 7th and 8th grade choirs are mixed as well.  These students are desparately in need of learning correct vocal technique (this is my first year in this district).  I believe it will be easier and more effective for me to teach techinque (and other things) to single-gendered ensembles.  Because of the middle school schedule, it can't happen at that level, so my thought is to take the two younger mixed groups at the high school and turn them into men's and women's groups, leaving the top ensemble mixed.
Any insight or suggestions would be appreciated!  Thanks.
Replies (10): Threaded | Chronological
on December 2, 2015 10:16am
I've heard of reasons why single sex education in general has positive effects, but I've never heard of that translating to choirs, and can't really see how it would work. Sticking them all together in one bunch and having them sing together can only be a good thing, in my limited experience.
on December 3, 2015 4:21am
Interesting. Just some thoughts and questions that come to mind  -- Have you had experience working that way in the past? Is this approach easier on you, the teacher, and more effective for the students? How does having single-gendered classes affect the overall class dynamic? How would this approach affect the amount of preparation required by the teacher? And an increasingly important consideration - What will happen to students who want to sing in choir, but who are also exploring their gender identity?
Applauded by an audience of 1
on December 3, 2015 7:36am  This is an article about how when boys are separated they tend to sing out more and experience less peer pressure to quit singing. is another study about the same issue.  
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on December 3, 2015 8:06am
My research lab is my 24 years teaching beginners in middle school in a public school classroom!  :-)
I wrote this blog post about the advantages of having a year to split by gender in middle school.  It's worked wonders for me.
Hope it helps!
Dale Duncan
Creator of S-Cubed Middle School Sight Singing Program for Beginners
on December 3, 2015 11:59am
Fabulous idea...if you have enough boys to make it work. And in 9th/10th grades, you probably still have boys getting through their voice change (or even starting). A little late...but that dynamic of working on their specific needs is really good. AND your girls will get a lot more attention when the boys are out of the room.
Another reason is to make your programming more interesting. 
Just note the amount of easy boys' literature is pretty limited, but its there. You might have to do some arranging/rewriting yourself as time goes on.
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on December 4, 2015 10:15am
At our 9-12 high school we split all our non-auditioned choirs by gender. Twice a year we put together all the groups so everyone sings SATB repertoire, but mostly they're singing separately until they get into our honors group. We love it! No worries about male/female balance issues!
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on December 5, 2015 9:11am
Four of my 5 middle school choirs are separated by gender.  It wasn't like that when I started the job 16 years ago, but I was able to convince my administration that this was what was best for my students.
in my experience, beginning boys will NOT sing out when they are in a room with girls.  Girls can work on music of a higher difficulty level when they are on their own.
My mixed choir is an auditioned group in which the singers have spent 1-2 years in boys or girls choir before.  At that point, the boys have enough confidence to sing with the girls, and it becomes a great ensemble.
hope this helps!
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on December 6, 2015 5:25am
This is my experience exactly!  Well said!
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on December 6, 2015 4:34am
Many workshops I have attended, as well as conversations with colleagues about their personal experience, confirm that, at least during the pubescent years, single-sex classes are better.  ( My H.S. and M. S. positions were unfortunately set up so that there was often only one period that a student could take chorus, so our classes were generally mixed. Not a good situation for addressing gender-affected vocal issues, or for levels of advancement.) Chorus is academic, and should not be a "dumping ground", any more than Math or French.
Daniel Sommer, you raise some good questions.  There have been discussions on Choralnet about those students whose soul-gender is inconsistent with their birth-gender, or who are listening to/asking their soul.  (These discussions centered around outfits and performance placement on risers.)  The answers I affirm are the ones where the teacher-director asked the student themselves, [privately] "Where are you most comfortable ?".  Where single-gender classes are in place, this may mean that anyone with significant gender issues may, at some point during the year, wish to switch classes.  We could say the criteria is vocal range, but that might pose serious frustration for some students, as the voice is often the trait that remains the longest, even after hormone treatment. (I have heard transgender adults tell me this; I am not sure how young teens are affected.)
It seems as if these issues need a related thread.  It does relate to Elizabeth Hannah's original question in that we as choral directors need to consider whether we would, at a date in the near future, regret requesting gender-separated classes.
Single-gender sports teams, some private schools, and single-gender community or church choirs my have this to consider.  (The Boys Scouts already have.  I have not heard about the Girl Scouts.)
if we term them "treble" and "tenor-bass" groups, this may help.  As musicians, we are about what sound they produce more than how they identify, [which can be addressed/supported in a counseling session.)
Best Wishes, Elizabeth.  I don't envy your dilemma. 
on December 7, 2015 8:23am
Great questions! Right now, relevant data are being collected of ACDA members through December 15 in an online survey of choral teaching and conducting priorities. Two of the grouping categories of great interest are Children-MS/JH-HS-HigherEd-Adult-Pro levels of choir and gender-specific versus mixed and other choir types. Crucial answers hoped for are if and how they are taught and conducted differently, including implications for vocal technique. Yet we need people whose primary choirs are MS/JH and gender-specific to have sufficient data to provide answers. Please, ACDA members, go to your email inbox and find the September 15 invitation with the link to the survey. Let's get good answers to these important questions.
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