Teaching To Promote Gender Equity
in teacher attention and class participation begin long before a particular
walks into your classroom; however, these patterns can be changed. The
studies mentioned previously, which showed male students receiving more
classroom attention from both male and female teachers, also found teachers
who observed these behaviors on videotape and participated in structured
training changed their behaviors. Afterwards, the teachers called on male
and female students in nearly equal proportions and gave more precise
responses to all students' comments, thus helping them further develop
their thoughts (How Schools 69, Sadker, "Sexism in the Classroom"
515, Sandler 14). Students responded to these extra measures quite positively,
which benefited the overall quality of class discussion. In particular,
students' behaviors changed in accordance with the instructors', male
and female students began to participate in the class in nearly equal
proportions, and all the students responded more frequently and more accurately
to the teacher's comments (Sadker, "Confronting" 183 and "Sexism
in the Classroom" 515).
Discussion and Lecture:
Establish class norms or ground rules for discourse (e.g., Critical analysis must be of ideas not persons, etc.) early in the semester. Enlisting the students in creating and enforcing these rules helps create an environment in which students feel safe enough to take intellectual risks, even if they make mistakes in the process.
all students by name and attribute students' contributions to class discussion
Use examples that include men and women in other than merely stereotypical ways.
Avoid making any student a spokesperson for his/ her gender.
Don't single out female students as if you expect them to have difficulty (as in consistently asking one woman in the class, "Do you understand, Sharon?") This is especially problematic in courses with predominantly male enrollments.
you ask questions, look around the room to make eye contact with both
male and female students. Use this eye contact as nonverbal encouragement
for student participation. Check yourself to see that you do not look
primarily at those students closest to you.
Watch students for nonverbal clues that may signal interest or disagreement, and call on them in addition to those who raise their hands.
Be aware of the nonverbal clues you may be giving to students as they speak. Your nonverbal messages (i.e., leaning forward, which suggests interest, or flipping through papers and looking at your watch, which may be seen as signs of disinterest) may have an important effect on which students speak again.
If you find that you consistently lecture or sit next to certain students, move to new locations, or move around the room as you speak. If you move from group to group of students during laboratory projects, check to make sure you spend as much time among groups containing female students as among predominately male groups.
your wait time for responses. Average teacher wait time is one second,
but a wait time of three to five seconds produces significantly more,
higher quality responses among a wider variety of students.
to the remarks of students who start to speak but are interrupted or who
drop their point before finishing.
Give such students space in the discussion to finish their thoughts ("That's
an interesting point, and we will get back to it, but I think Phil still
has something he wants to say"). Alternatively, you can credit the
student's remarks and tie them into the current discussion ("As Atalya
said earlier, . . ." or "That sounds similar to the comment
that Kamila brought up earlier. Would you like to comment on X, Kamila?").
This technique is also helpful if some students' comments tend to be ignored.
When appropriate, emphasize students' comments by putting them on the board.
specifically to students' comments. Ask them to develop and extend their
thoughts. If a student gives you a brief "yes/no" response
to a question, you can ask them for greater development by asking "Why
is X true?" or "How does X work?" or "Can you explain
that process further?" Studies have shown that teachers react 14
to students' comments more than 50% by affirming them verbally or nonverbally
(Sadker, "Sexism in the Classroom" 513). Such acceptance, while
important, helps the student much less than directed and specific feedback.
In the video, The Art of Discussion Leading: A Class with Chris Christensen,
Christensen, a legendary professor at Harvard's Business School, models
effective feedback techniques. (Video available for viewing at TRC)
Reply to the quality and content of students' remarks, not to how confidently these remarks may be stated.
Let your students know it is as important to follow up on and extend others' comments and arguments as to criticize them. Make classroom discussion more than purely a debate, where one side "wins" or "loses."
discussion activities in which everyone participates. For instance,
you might ask students to raise their hands in response to an issue ("How
many people think X?"), and then use the poll results to open discussion.
Alternatively, each student could write briefly in response to your initial
question. To start class discussion, you can then call on certain students
to read their responses aloud, or students can discuss these possible
responses in small groups (for further information, see Johnson and Davidson).
When students view laboratory demonstrations as a group, make sure smaller and shorter students do not become shouldered to the side or hindered from full view (Hall and Sandler 16).
aware that women from an underrepresented group may feel the effects of
gender, ethnicity and race in different ways. Don't assume that all
the female students in your classroom have similar thoughts, attitudes
or experiences or that "concerns about gender will be more pressing
for your women students than those of race, class, religion, or national
origin" (Tips for Teachers: Gender 3).
frequent brief feedback techniques to gauge students' understanding.
For instance, you can assign a one-minute paper by taking the last few
minutes of class to have students write their anonymous answers to a question
such as "What was the main point you learned today?" or "What
is your main question about today's material?" Read these responses
and respond to them in the next class (Light 36; Angelo).
for comments about the course at midterm or add questions to the standard
final evaluation to elicit students' perceptions about class participation
(e.g., "Do you feel comfortable participating in the class? Why or
why not? What would make you more comfortable?"). For final evaluations
you may wish to consult with your department concerning ways to add additional
questions to the standard or on-line forms while following departmental
guidelines. As one easy way of obtaining information, you can have a consultant
from the Teaching Resource Center come to your class to conduct a Teaching
Analysis Poll (TAP), a thirty-minute procedure that collects majority
student opinion about the course.
in the semester set up a system that will help you see how much attention
you pay to students and that will highlight which students speak, and
for how long.
You might make notes during or immediately after a class or a series of
classes about who contributed to class discussion: in what order, in what
depth, whether he/she was interrupted, whether he/she spoke again. Look
over your notes for patterns of unequal participation. More easily, you
can have a colleague sit in and observe, or you can have a TRC consultant
discuss with you an observed or videotaped class. (For further information
on TAPs or videotaping, see "Consultations" on the TRC website
the first week or two of the course, arrange to have every student talk
briefly in class or in small groups. Students can introduce themselves
to the class or to each other or report group solutions of problems. Whatever
you do, set up a structure that helps everyone say something out loud,
if not to the entire class then to a small group. Studies have shown that
a student who does not talk in the first two weeks of class is much less
likely to speak up later.
Give students sufficient instructions about how to complete assignments or solve problems on their own rather than taking over and completing the project for them.
students sufficient opportunity to practice the hands-on skills necessary
for your course. Some women in science and engineering courses, for
instance, may be less experienced with course procedures or equipment
than other students. Female students tend to take fewer mathematics or
science courses in high school, and they may be less likely to choose
hobbies that introduce them to technical or mechanical equipment. Providing
sufficient time for observing experiments allows all students to feel
comfortable with the required instruments (Rosser 59).