Pt. 1: Gender Equity in Student-Teacher Interactions
A special guest post by Katrina Overby, Katie Kearns, and Maureen Biggers
Gender-equitable classroom practices allow an inclusive range of perspectives to be presented, and they can positively impact the individual and collective growth of students. Yet several nationwide studies report that faculty members exhibit subconscious gender-biased behavior that can have a lasting negative psychological impact on women students and can lead to issues of retention. A few of these behaviors include:
- male students are called on more frequently;
- male students speak longer and more frequently in discussions;
- male students receive more eye contact after questions;
- male students have their names used more often; and
- female students don’t have their points elaborated on as frequently.
Female students in STEM programs at IU have also experienced gender biases from faculty members in the classroom (see quote). ALL instructors are capable of gender biasing; the issue isn’t solely between male instructor and female students.
Understand how the dynamics of your classroom can impact the student’s willingness to actively participate in discussions. Take time this semester to “take the climate pulse” of your classroom to ensure that you are being fair and impartial.
- Tip 1: Solicit mid-semester feedback. Have students anonymously answer three specific questions about your teaching style and methods in the classroom. Specially ask questions regarding equitable and inclusive teaching. Encourage them to provide you with honest feedback that will specifically be used to improve their learning experience in your classroom for the remainder of the semester.
- Tip 2: Invite a consultant or peer faculty member to observe your classroom. Provide your observer with information you are seeking to discover about your classroom instruction and what goals you have for the semester in terms of equitable teaching. Encourage them to pay attention to specific elements to provide you with critical feedback.
- Tip 3: Pay attention to who you call on to participate in discussions and answer questions. Take note of which students talk predominantly and evaluate whether you are giving equal time, acknowledgement, and feedback to women and underrepresented students.
- Tip 4: Vary your classroom structure. Find other ways to get students to participate, such as: writing responses in class or online; working in pairs and small groups; and class activities that engage every student in the class. There should be encouragement of collaboration as well as competition and debate.
- Tip 5: Increase wait time and encouragement. After posing a question to the class, look around the room to give all students eye contact and give at least five seconds of wait time for responses. Nonverbal encouragement is more likely to result in more equitable participation by women and underrepresented students.
- Tip 6: Do not make students the “spokespersons” for their identity groups. Do not assume that they all have the same ideas, experiences or attitudes about topics discussed.
- Tip 7: Learn the names of your students and use them. Provide positive encouragement and feedback to all students in your class that will encourage them to make comments.
More resources for inclusive educational practices can be found at:
- “Diversity and Inclusion.” Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning at Indiana University.
- “Teaching to Promote Gender Equality.” Center for Teaching Excellence of the University of Virginia.
- “Gender Issues in the College Classroom.” Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Teaching Center of Columbia University.
- “The Remarkably Different Answers Men and Women Give When Asked Who’s the Smartest in the Class.” Danielle Paquette. Washington Post, February 16, 2016.
- “The 5 Biases Pushing Women Out of STEM.” Joan C. Williams. Harvard Business Review, March 24, 2015.