Kathie Anderson, Rhonda Brooks, and Sr. Mollie Reavis, SNJM
As a result of attending the Woodrow Wilson GEMS Congress, we have
become more aware of the subtle ways we as teachers unintentionally foster
gender inequities. After listening to guest speakers and our peers, watching videotapes, and reading books and articles, we have compiled the following list of instructional strategies to promote learning opportunities for girls. Some of the following strategies are also useful for encouraging minority students and others who may not be active participants.
Teachers are frequently unaware of their own shortcomings; you may wish to videotape your class in order to review your teaching style more objectively. Peer reviews may also be helpful. Because most teachers are innovative and try to meet the needs of all their students, we hope you will find and use some new techniques to make your classroom more equitable for all students.
- call on girls as often as you do boys, and be sure to ask the girls some of the higher level cognitive questions (research shows that both male and female teachers initiate more interaction with boys, and on higher cognitive levels).
- have high expectations of both boys and girls; don't over-nurture the girls (over-nurturing encourages dependence rather independence).
- give girls an equal amount of help and feedback (boys usually receive more help and praise which builds self-esteem).
- encourage girls to use manipulatives and to participate in hands-on experiences (without encouragement girls tend to be passive learners).
- balance cooperative and competitive activities (most girls learn more readily in cooperative situations).
- use gender-free language in classroom discourse (avoid the use of male terms for generic concepts, e.g. use synthetic instead of man-made).
- give substantive feedback to girls' as well as boys' answers - not just a nod or an "okay."
- make eye contact with all students and call them by name.
- don't interrupt girls or let other students do so.
- don't stop talking to a girl when a boy approaches.
- mentally divide your room into quadrants. If students in all quadrants don't participate, you can say, Let's hear from someone in the back right corner.
- ask students to state concepts out loud (this helps students to learn the vocabulary of the subject).
- cultivate bonding around an intellectual challenge (this provides students with an opportunity to feel like a team).
- use the human body as a vehicle for interesting girls in physics, etc. (girls often find the human body fascinating and will identify with phenomena related to the body).
- encourage girls to participate in extracurricular math and science activities.
- stress safety precautions instead of dangers (girls will sometimes be reluctant to participate in lab activities if they seem too dangerous).
- use computer and lab partners (most girls work better in teams).
- introduce lessons with an overview (girls learn more readily from the "big picture" rather than from disconnected details).
- incorporate students' comments into lectures (this technique validates the students' understanding of concepts).
- acknowledge the contributions of both men and women to mathematics and science via posters, reports, examples, story problems, etc.
- use cooperative activities and some single-sex small groups.
- provide female role models.
- provide opportunities for girls to develop spatial visualization skills.
- use writing to help students express and clarify their feelings and thoughts (e.g., math autobiographies, science journals).
- create an attractive classroom environment (research shows that girls learn better in an aesthetically pleasing environment).
- wait 4 or 5 seconds before calling on a student to answer the question (girls often wait until they have formulated an answer before they raise their hands; boys often raise their hands immediately and then formulate an answer).
- don't grade on a curve (encourage all students to realize their potential rather than to compete against one another).
- solve problems by multiple methods (this appeals to students with different learning styles).
- encourage a "can do" attitude; teach students to give themselves credit. (Girls tend to credit their achievements to luck rather than to their ability.)
- encourage all students to take additional math and science courses (teacher encouragement has been shown to be a major factor in students' decision-making processes).
- encourage girls to take risks.
- judge what girls say, not how they say it (don't assume that if they hesitate or apologize, they don't know the answer).
- help girl students value themselves (girls often have a severe drop in self esteem during the middle school years. Women teachers need to model a healthy self respect and male teachers need to have respect for both girl students and female colleagues).
Bibliography for the Instructional Techniques
- Conroy, M. Sexism in Our Schools: Training Girls for Failure? Better Homes and Gardens, Feb. 1988, pp. 44-48.
- Fennema, E. and P. L. Peterson, Effective Teaching for Girls and Boys: The Same or Different? University of Wisconsin-Madison.
- Gardner, A. L., C. L. Mason, and M. L. Matyas, "Equity, Excellence, and 'Just Plain Good Teaching'," American Biology Teacher, Feb. 1989.
- Hanson, K. "Teaching Mathematics Effectively and Equitably to Females," ERIC Clearinghouse for Urban Education and the Center for Equity and Cultural Diversity at the Education Development Center, New York, 1992.
- Jacobs, J. "Women's Learning Styles and the Teaching of Mathematics," in Math and Science for Girls: A Symposium sponsored by the National Coalition of Girls' Schools, 1992.
- Morrow, C. "Classroom and Cooperative Group Structures that Promote Gender Equity," presentation at the NCTM annual meeting, Seattle, WA, 1993.
- Sandler, B. R. "Warming up the Chilly Climate," in Math and Science for Girls: A Symposium sponsored by the National Coalition of Girls' Schools, 1992.
- Sandler, B. R. and E. Hoffman. Teaching Faculty Members to be Better Teachers: A Guide to Equitable and Effective Classroom Techniques, Association of American Colleges.
- The Task Force Reports, Math and Science for Girls: A Symposium sponsored by the National Coalition of Girls' Schools, 1992.
Woodrow Wilson Leadership Program in Mathematics
The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation
CN 5281, Princeton NJ 08543-5281