Investigating Critical & Contemporary Issues in Education/Gender Bias
Chapter 4: Gender Bias in the Classroom
While there are many issues regarding equal education that occur within the classroom, gender bias tends to be overlooked in many instances. Many teachers would not want to admit that they are gender biased; the gender bias tends to be unintentional. Furthermore, “Gender bias is difficult to detect because it affects girls and boys in different ways.” (Sadker & Zittleman, 2005) There are many factors that lead to gender bias in the classroom including biased textbooks and software. Other issues are “the socialization of gender, and a permissive attitude towards sexual harassment.” (Chapman) Educators need to find ways in which they can overcome this issue. They need to develop strategies in which they can create a conducive learning environment for all students regardless of gender.
One of the main reasons for the concern of gender bias in the classroom is the achievement gap between boys and girls. “Many people are not convinced that gender equity is an issue in the 1990s.” (Mewborn, 1999) Since then, attitudes have been changed due to research. Recent research suggests that “Girls receive higher report card grades throughout their schooling career. Boys outscore girls on most high-stakes tests, including both the verbal and math sections of the SATs” (Sadker & Zittleman, 2005) “It is also the case that males outscore females on standardized tests for entrance to graduate school, law school and medical school.” (Mewborn, 1999) Given this evidence on gender performance shows the possibilities that gender bias exists. According to Verkuyten & Thijs, gender difference has been found in sex-based favoritism, whereby girls tend to be more gender biased than boys while there are several studies in which it appears that boys tend to be more biased in the ethnic domain than girls. (Verkuyten & Thijs, 2001) In another study, researchers “noted four types of teacher responses to students: teacher praises, providing positive feedback for a response; teacher remediates, encouraging a student to correct or expand their answer; teacher criticizes, explicitly stating that the answer is incorrect; teacher accepts, acknowledging that a student has responded. They also found that boys were far more likely to receive praise or remediation from a teacher than were girls. The girls were most likely to receive an acknowledgement response from their teacher.” (Chapman)
One way to combat gender bias in the classroom is to be aware of the curriculum. For example computer software, “there are several sources of gender bias in the use of computers by young children. These sources include bias that exists in the media and in societal role models, differential computer technology resources available for boys versus girls, and biased attitudes of teachers and parents regarding computer use.” (McNair, Kirova-Petrova, & Bhargava, 2001) Other curriculum to be aware of is textbooks, videos, and periodicals. Teachers need to ask themselves does it “omit contributions of women, that tokenize the experiences of women, or that stereotype gender roles”? (Chapman) According to Mewborn, the curriculum should be replaced because “using biased materials reinforces the idea that women are not valued contributors to a particular field of study”. (Mewborn, 1999) She did mention that “it may be necessary to use biased materials, either because a particular text is mandated by your school or because the content of the material is particularly good In those cases, explain to students that you recognize the materials are biased, and explain why you are using them” (Mewborn, 1999)
Teachers also needs to recognize behaviors that are socially gender limiting. They need to remember that “Every time students are seated or lined up by gender, teachers are affirming that girls and boys should be treated differently. When an administrator ignores an act of sexual harassment, he or she is allowing the degradation of girls. When different behaviors are tolerated for boys than for girls because 'boys will be boys', schools are perpetuating the oppression of females. “(Chapman) Since there is “some controversy surrounds the role of teachers in counteracting gender stereotypes. Some feel that gender stereotypes are a product of the early rearing practices in the home environment and that schools should remain neutral, thus allowing students to develop their own gender identities.” (Frawley, 2005)
Teachers also need to come up with strategies to involve all students equally so as to ensure that all children are participating regardless of gender. A good example is to “distribute a certain number of chips or slips of paper to students at the beginning of a class period. Students must turn in a chip when they wish to speak, and the goal is to use all of the chips by the end of the class period.” (Mewborn, 1999) The teacher also needs to make sure that all of the students receive equal instruction and that “The purpose is not to marginalize boys in order to elevate girls.” (Mewborn, 1999) According to Mewborn teacher also should participate in trainings and activities to help them become more aware of issues regarding gender bias and develop strategies to improve the classroom environment.
A more controversial study has incorporated gender segregation. As a result of “The No Child Left Behind Act includes a problematic proposal to change Title IX, the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education, by encouraging the establishment of public single-sex schools and classes for girls and boys” (Sadker & Zittleman, 2005) While there are a few studies that have been performed in regards to gender segregation “these inconsistent findings arise mainly from analytical decisions on how best to control for variance associated with group differences. For example three separate researchers using data from the same database.” (Shapka & Keating, Winter 2003) Without more research, it is nearly impossible to conclude that gender segregation is effective. It also goes back to the issue of sexual discrimination. “Some view this approach as part of an anti-male movement, bolstering girls' achievement at the expense of boys and making schools more equitable by eliminating masculine stereotypes, and "feminizing" boys” (Frawley, 2005)“In reality, gender bias is very much an issue for boys and girls, an issue too many educators fail to see. For example, can you imagine a teacher organizing a spelling bee by matching black students against white students? Certainly not in today's society. But consider the same teacher organizing the same activity by gender, boys against girls. That's a practice so common that it has become an acceptable, unquestioned part of school life. But why? We have yet to come across a single study showing that gender segregation and competition serve any positive educational, social, or psychological purpose. Still, we see some schools separating girls and boys in lunchrooms, class lines, playgrounds, and school buses.” (Sadker & Zittleman, 2005) It is quite scary to think that as far as our country has come there are times when it still reverts back to stepping on individuals civil rights no matter how unintentional it is.
Educators and “administrators, have a responsibility to help establish a school climate in which all teachers, staff, students, parents and community members know that equity is a high priority.” (Mewborn, 1999) There is an immense call for education reform to ensure that all genders receive an equal and quality education. As educators teachers need to pay close attention to themselves and be more aware of their own bias’ so that they will make every student that walks within those school doors succeed to the best of their abilities.
Chapman, A. (n.d.). Gender Bias in Education. Retrieved August 30, 2009, from Research Room Exchange Multicultural Pavilion: http://www.edchange.org/multicultural/papers/genderbias.html
Frawley, T. (2005, Summer). Gender Bias in the Classroom: Current Controversies and Implications for Teachers. Childhood Education. Vol. 81 Iss.4 , pp. 221-227.
McNair, S., Kirova-Petrova, A., & Bhargava, A. (2001). Computers and Young Children in the Classroom. Early Childhood Education Journal, Vol. 29, No. 1 , 51-55.
Mewborn, D. S. (1999). Creating a gender equitable school environment. INT. J. LEADERSHIP IN EDUCATION, VOL. 2, NO. 2 , 103 - 115.
Sadker, D., & Zittleman, K. (2005, April). Gender Bias Lives, for both Sexes. theEducationDigest , pp. 27-30.
Shapka, J. D., & Keating, D. P. (Winter 2003). Effects of a Girls Only Curriculum During Adolescence: Performance, Persistence, and Engagement in Mathematics and Science. American Educational Research Journal. Vol 40, N0. 4 , 929-960.
Verkuyten, M., & Thijs, J. (2001). Ethnic and Gender Bias among Dutch and Turkish Children in Late Childhood. Infant and Child Development , 203-217.
Zittleman, K., & Sadker, D. (2005, Apri). Gender Bias Lives, for both Sexes. theEDUCATIONDIGEST , pp. 27-30.
1. In what ways can you as an educator overcome gender bias within the classroom?
2. What other strategies could you come up with to establish a gender neutral environment?
3. Do you think that gender segregation in the classroom will tighten the gender gap? Why or why not?
4. When you reflect on yourself as a future educator, what sort of biases do you recognize in yourself?
5. That type of things should a teacher be aware of when it comes to gender biased curriculum?
Chapter 4: Gender Bias
Gender bias in education is the unequal treatment of one sex over another in an education environment. Gender bias in school, between teachers and students is still prevalent. Most of us, as students, have experienced gender bias, whether in a physical education or in a science class. The majority of gender bias occurs unintentionally, whereas some occurs intentionally. Gender bias is a social issue that society is constantly confronted with. Some instances gender bias is school board limitations, which have improved. The most influential type of gender bias is a female or male is “taught” or counseled. For instance, influence on what classes to take which can influence his/her preference on what class to choose in the future. Gender bias has caused many developing issues in society for both genders, whether it is career choices, technology use, or even achievement gaps. Disparities can be caused by teacher behavior, peer influence, or parents. However, the focus of this paper is on teachers in education.
Career choices, for either gender, have improved over the years. A major influence of female careers has been the women’s rights movement. Women’s rights were first questioned during the eighteenth century, the Enlightenment Period, mainly in France and Britain (Wikipedia). However, women’s rights are a continuing struggle in modern society. The career paths available to women to choose from are directed by guidelines of modern society; women’s rights have not fully developed, which influences the careers that women can choose from. For example, women are still thought of as the people who should be teachers in an education field. Why? Is the limited career choice still due to the education females receive or the bias that occurs in the classrooms, whether from a male or female teacher?
At times, the socialization of gender within our schools assures that girls are made aware that they are unequal to boys. Every time students are seated or lined up by gender, teachers are affirming that girls and boys should be treated differently (Chapman, 1995). The American Association of University Women published a report that revealed females received less attention from teachers and the attention that was receive was often more negative than the attention received by the males (Bailey, 1992). Even with this negative attention bias, females performed better in writing and reading assessments compared to males, and almost matched males in the science and math (O’Neill, 2000).
The achievement gaps between males and females could be due to gender bias in present education. Experts think that the gender bias given by teachers negatively affects the self-esteem levels of females. With the self-esteem levels fluctuating, in comparison with males, females tend to care less about academic skills and avoid math and science or precision courses (Woodward, 1998). Even though studies have shown that females have lower self-esteem levels they still have better overall academic success compared to males. For example, females stay in school longer, cut classes less than boys, and on average earn better grades than males (Woodward, 1998). As mentioned before, males currently performed better in math and science, but females have greater achievement in reading and writing. In contrary to these results in academics, the career path for females has expanded. For example, females have increased nearly by fifty percent in the medical fields (Woodward, 1998).
Teacher behavior is influential as to whether gender bias occurs, even though the majority of it is unintentional. Teachers’ biases send transparent messages that are harmful because the messages are influential as children developed their beliefs. A child’s perception of gender roles are infected by gender bias given by influential people in their lives. The “hidden curriculum”, created by gender bias, is subtle lessons that children encounter every day through teachers’ behaviors, feedback, classroom segregation, and instructional materials (Frawley, 2005). This could be a result from the way a male or female teacher teaches. In a Clemson University study, of high school teachers, female physics teachers were underrated, view as less effective, whereas the chemistry and biology ones where not underrated by the female students. Additionally, the study concluded that “few differences in teaching style exist between male and female teachers which had no correlation with the gender-bias ratings” (Polowczuk, 2009). Even though the results of female teachers were underrated overall, but the way to overcome a low teacher rating would be change the way the material is presented to the class, without gender bias. Teacher bias is hard to recognize as a teacher, but it could be monitored then improved. For example, a teacher could be monitored with video unaware and then they watch it at the end of the day and improve in the areas where they are promoting gender bias.
Gender bias in society is still prevalent, but there are ways to improve and change gender bias. Earlier, it was shown how gender bias influences our societies, in careers, achievement gaps, or even as teachers. This is a subject that needs to be changed in our education system, but with any issue gender bias needs to be dealt with at an area where they perceive and receive the most influence. Gender bias is a difficult issue to realize in society because it is usually unintentional. This could remain as a social issue because gender bias is hard to overcome. To surmount gender bias it needs to be dealt with at the root of the problem, in the youth stages when cognitive thinking begins to develop.
Chapman, A. (1995) Gender Bias in Education. Research Room Exchange Multicultural Pavilion.
Bailey, S. (1992) How Schools Shortchange Girls: The AAUW Report. New York, NY: Marlowe & Company.
O'Neill, T. (2000) Boys' problems don't matter. Report/ Newsmagazine (National Edition), 27 (15), 54-56.
Woodward, A. (1998) Gender Bias in Education. Gale Encyclopedia of Childhood & Adolescence. Gale Research.
Frawley, T. (Summer 2005) Gender Bias in the Classroom: Current Controversies and Implications for Teachers. Childhood Education.
Polowczuk, S. (February 02, 2009) Gender bias found in student ratings of high school science teachers. Clemson University