Gender Equity Training and Teacher Behavior

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to determine whether the use of a gender resource module would modify teacher behaviors toward more gender equity in the classroom. Instruction by four teachers was videotaped and analyzed for gender-related behaviors, after which results were shared in an attempt to sensitize them to potential problems faced by female students in interacting with teachers. Printed materials and strategies for reducing gender bias were provided. Subsequent to eight weeks of application of strategies in the classroom, instruction was taped again. Chi-square analysis revealed that the approach taken to modify gender bias was effective supporting the need for increased teacher training in gender equity strategies.

As education approaches the turn of the century, females still continue to combat substantial gender inequities in school. These experiences that females encounter in school have lifetime effects on their social and emotional productivity (Brennan, 1995). In addition, educational experiences provide the impetus and ability for achievement in the business and financial sectors and elsewhere; therefore, discrimination at the school level is potentially devastating for women (Grossman & Grossman, 1994; Sadker & Sadker, 1994).

The American Association of University Women (1992) published an important report dealing with gender inequity in the classroom. This report noted that females receive less attention from teachers, and this attention is more often negative or contradictory. For example, females may receive criticism for the content of work completed, yet praise for the neatness and timeliness of the work. Males, on the other hand, are more frequently rewarded for intelligent answers and innate ability. Content is praised and appearance of work is criticized. Female students often begin to doubt themselves and their abilities, which leads to less participation in class and results in lowered self-confidence and underachievement.

Many times, because of low self-esteem and lack of confidence, females do not enroll in many of the higher level math and science classes, thus creating obstacles for success in the future (Riles, 1993). It is also likely that females are not offered the necessary encouragement to excel in these areas (Campbell & Evans, 1994). Female students who do enroll in these classes are often confronted with teachers who more frequently favor male students with positive feedback and attention for achievement (Grossman & Grossman, 1994). This differential treatment given to males and females sends subtle messages to all students that high academic achievement is considered a male domain.

It is encouraging to note that motivation for gender equity in schools stems from within- from teachers (Brennan, 1995). The research on gender equity has shown that teachers must be aware of gender bias, be aware of their own biased behaviors, and show a willingness to change (Masland, 1994). Many of the interventions with teachers have been knowledge-based and have included tests, workshops, and in-services (Orenstein, 1993; Schwister, Rich, & Hossman, 1984). However, the focus of such interventions should be on gender-biased behaviors that teachers demonstrate, such as unequal praise and criticism towards their students that promote independence in males and dependence and underachievement in females (Carpenter & Lubinski, 1990).

The purpose of this study was to determine whether strategies designed to modify teacher behaviors toward more gender equity in the classroom would actually do so. It was hypothesized that application of the strategies would result in: (1) female students moving from a position of relative deficiency toward more equity in total interactions with teachers, (2) female students moving from a position of relative deficiency toward more equity in positive interactions with teachers, and (3) female students being subjected to fewer negative interactions with teachers. …