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There are a number of things that could be done to reduce gender bias. What we think will work depends to some degree on what we think the cause of the bias is. For example:
If we think that girls are unwilling to participate as much in class because they are too conscious of what boys think then we can create all-girls schools or classes.
If we think that teachers are the problem, we can try to recruit more female teachers in areas like math and science to make girls believe that females can enjoy those areas and succeed in them.
If we think that it is a matter of girls’ exposure to areas like math and science, we can encourage girls to get involved in things like math leagues or competitions that involve engineering.
It depends on what level of education you are talking about, but one way you can promote equality is to treat children equally from a young age. If teachers eliminate their predisposed, and sometimes subconscious, beliefs, we can eliminate the biases that occur early on and hopefully develop a more even playing field.
Children also need to be made aware of the ideas they perpetuate.
After practicing how to recognize gender inequities—and learning ways to resolve such situations—these same 5th graders were quick to point out incidents of unfair treatment in their classroom and to offer possible solutions. (See ASCD)
No matter what teachers try to do, if parents and students continually reinforce gender stereotypes we will not make as much progress.
One thing that I specifically try to do in my class to prevent gender bias is to monitor how much attention I pay to girls versus boys. I used to do this by making plus marks on a copy of my seating chart, so I could make sure I called on both genders in class evenly. Now, I monitor my students' participation in class with a nifty website called class dojo. I can track all of my students' volunteering, enabling me to make sure I call on both boys and girls evenly. A really great added benefit to using class dojo is it gives each student a little monster icon. If I project the webpage on my screen, the students can monitor their own participation. I have definitely seen increased participation since I started projecting the students' class dojo data.
With today's technology, most students hand in work in a digital form. If students were assigned numbers for all submitted work, as opposed to putting their names on submitted work, this would help to prevent gender bias in grading. After a while, most of us can recognize a student's "voice," but at least this gets us off to an unbiased start.
I love the idea of post 4 as I used to do all this manually. I've never heard of this website, but the effects on students would be beneficial for all. Students often don't realize that participation affects their grade to some extent because it indicates interest. I also like the idea of removing the student's name from their work, but I used this in only essays and had the students grade the ones selected to put on the overhead. The first discussion was always what the student had done correctly and THEN how it could be improved. Depending on the essay discussion, we started with girl groups and boy groups. Having already voiced their opinion in small groups, many then were willing to voice opinions in large groups. How teachers treat the answers also affects how students respond, so I always explained that I would always ask for the next response, demonstrating that if I praised the first answer, the rest would shut down because they couldn't compete with the first answer. Keeping track of boy and girl responses made me so much more conscious of keeping it even that I can see how letting the students see the numbers would help even more. What a great question!
While it is important to have classroom strategies to enhance gender equality in American, Canadian and other Western classrooms, gender equality in education is a world-wide issue of enormous proportions. Gender equality in education is part of the UN Millennium Goals. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has a specific gender equality plan in place that focuses on education for girls and women: The UNESCO Priority Gender Equality Action Plan 2008-2013 (GEAP). UNESCO's GEAP focuses on gaining the right to be educated for girls and women in those countries and cultures where the right is still withheld:
UNESCO works to promote equal opportunities to quality learning, free from gender-based or other forms of discrimination.
One among many approaches UNESCO takes is working to have gender equality in education promoted in "education laws, policies and plans." In other countries, this means promoting laws, policies and plans that permit for females to be educated. In American/Western education, this may mean promoting gender-specific classes, courses or schools as pohnpei mentioned: promoting all-girl classes, courses, schools.
A second approach is to "address obstacles" preventing gender equality in education. Some of these obstacles in other countries are gender-based violence against girls and women and gender-targeted STDs: "gender-based violence and HIV & AIDS." In American/Western countries, this means combating the sexualization of girls and women, a trend that has accelerated at an increasing rate beginning in the 1980s.
A third approach is to expand opportunities for learning in "both formal and non-formal education." What this means in other countries is opportunities for community learning centers along with institutions for formal education. In American/Western countries this means expanding opportunities for girls and women to be educated in "intimidating" science, math and engineering subjects taught by excellent female instructors in all-female environments.
I never grade anything in my class along the lines of gender. I grew up during the 70's when traditional roles were being turned upside down. I think as a teacher, we need to have the same expectations for all of our students--males and females. We shouldn't think of a girl as more verbal or a male as better in math. Once we treat everyone equally and have them believe in our expectations for their success, gender equality will be achieved. As a woman, I still can't believe that males make more money on average than females. I work two jobs-high school teacher, college professor and still had time to raise a family. If anything, woman are more capable!
We need to be certain that we are viewing, treating and approaching each student as individuals. In the United States, historically, boys were viewed as brighter. Now research is showing that girls are vastly outpacing boys and that schools are failing boys. Why the change and why the huge gender gap if there was bias against girls at one point?
An anecdotal response:
I recently came across a story about a program aimed at helping girls in math at the critical ages of 12-14. Apparently, up to this age girls and boys are on par with one another in math classes, but a break occurs here and many girls' grades decline. This is not universally true, naturally, but only describes a trend.
To adjust or erase this trend, some educators have developed extra math support, which takes the form of simple reinforcement of morale. By communicating confidence to girls at this age, the gap was successfully eliminated and girls' performance in math classes was again on par or ahead of boys' performance.
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