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.
Subjects were four teachers from public schools located in a mid-sized urban city. Two were elementary teachers and two were high school teachers, all with a minimum of five years teaching experience.
Two instruments were implemented in the study. The Louisiana Gender Equity Quiz (LGEQ, 1991) was used to measure teachers' knowledge on gender equity. It is a true/false assessment consisting of 10 items, including questions about parent stereotypes, teacher actions, teacher-student interactions, and general stereotypes about males and females in American society.
The Interactions for Sex Equity in Classroom Teaching (INTERSECT) Observation Scale (Sadker, Sadker, & Hergert, 1981) was developed to identify certain patterns of potential gender bias by teachers during interaction with students. The development of the INTERSECT Observation Scale was funded by the National Institute of Education, U.S. Department of Education. The INTERSECT was developed through the use of the following procedures:
1. a comprehensive review of the interaction instruments and research in general;
2. a comprehensive review of interaction instruments and research that pertain specifically to sex equity in classrooms; and
3. field testing of INTERSECT in 36 fourth, sixth and eighth grade classrooms, including classes that were primarily minority, primarily majority and integrated ... (p. 1).
The INTERSECT Scale examines four categories of teacher-student interaction in relation to gender and type of interaction: praise, acceptance, remediation, and criticism. These four areas are combined into three comprehensive sections. Section A deals with the climate of the classroom (i.e., desk arrangement, student composition, classroom context). Section B codes teacher and student interaction in the classroom and Section C is concerned with tone-setting incidents that enhance or impede gender equity in the classroom.
The study involved: (1) videotaping classes on two occasions, (2) meetings with one of the researchers, and (3) implementation of gender-related teaching strategies in the classroom.
On the days scheduled for videotaping, the camera was placed in the least conspicuous corner of the classroom before students arrived. Teachers arranged lessons so that, during the 50-minute taping, no testing, seatwork, or other interruptions occurred for more than 15 minutes. Taping of a lesson by each teacher was accomplished twice, once before and once after meeting with one of the researchers.
Following completion of the first round of videotaping, individual meetings were held with each teacher, during which the LGEQ was administered to determine baseline knowledge of research on gender equity. Teachers were not given their scores. After completing the LGEQ each teacher met with a researcher to discuss the analysis of the first video tape. Teachers were then given a self-directed gender resource module aimed at reducing gender bias in the classroom. The activities in the module were designed specifically for each teacher based upon his/her particular gender-biased interactions as determined by analysis of the video tape. In addition, this module included a synthesis of research on gender equity in the classroom over the past 20 years, specific activities for reducing stereotypical thinking in students, and self-evaluation worksheets for teachers. The researcher explained how the materials were to be used and answered questions. Teachers were directed to use this information in the classroom and were provided a checklist to indicate completion of all activities.
After the individual meetings, teachers taught for approximately eight weeks, using the information from the gender equity informational module and implementing the suggested activities. Following this, teachers were again videotaped during a 50-minute class period, using procedures identical to those in the initial taping sessions. The second videotape was coded and analyzed, following the same guidelines used for analysis of the first tapes.
Chi-Square tests of goodness of fit were calculated for three sets of teacher- student interactions: (1) total, (2)positive, and (3) negative. This was done to determine whether the actually observed distributions of interactions by gender and videotaping session were different from those that would have occurred if gender equity happened to be ideal (alpha = .05). Standardized residuals were calculated to identify the cells that were major contributors to the chi-square.
Results and Discussion
Teacher-student total interactions during the first and second videotaped classroom observations are reported in Table. The hypothesis that female students would move from a position of relative deficiency toward more equity in total interactions was supported by chi-square analysis. Standardized residuals indicated that the frequency of teachers' interactions with females during the first videotaping was significantly different from what was expected. The 44 total interactions for females during the first taping was clearly lower than that for the males, in agreement with previous research (AAUW, 1992), and the gender difference during the final video session was minimal. Apparently, the treatment was effective, sensitizing these teachers to the need for interacting more with females and providing them with strategies for doing so.
Table 1 Frequencies of total interactions by gender and taping session.(*)
1st Video Taping 2nd Video Taping Males 55 61 Females 44(**) 57
(*) Chi-Square = 11.34 (significant with 1 df at alpha = .05).
(**) Significant by standardized residuals (expected cell frequencies, 54.25).
The hypothesis that female students would move from a position of relative deficiency toward more equity in positive interactions with teachers was not supported by the chi-square analysis (see Table 2). Though the chi-square calculated was significant, there was not movement from a position of deficiency. Rather, there was relatively little difference in positive interactions between teachers and students of either gender at the outset, but there was a difference at the end, in favor of the female students. This is an example of a statistical anomaly, where the chi-square indicated significance at .05, but the follow-up standardized residuals revealed the one major contributing cell significant only at alpha = .10. Still, it would appear that the strategies used to counter the commonly occurring gender bias did work; sensitizing teachers to the need for equity and giving them the tools to do so resulted in an increase in the frequency of positive interactions between teachers and females.
Table 2 Frequencies of positive interactions by gender and taping session.(*)
1st Video Taping 2nd Video Taping Males 36 38 Females 32 51(**)
(*) Chi-Square = 2.93 (significant with 1 df at alpha = .05).
(**) Significant at .10 by standardized residuals (expected cell frequencies, 39.25).
The hypothesis that female students would be subjected to fewer negative interactions with teachers than would their male counterparts after the experimental treatment was supported by the chi-square analysis (see Table 3). Though the chi-square calculated was significant, a gender difference occurred only during the second video sessions. There were insignificant gender differences with respect to frequency of negative interactions with teachers at the outset, but male students were subject to almost four times as many negative interactions with teachers during the second videotaping as were the female students. This supports the findings of Lee & Groper (1974) who reported that males do not fit the stereotype of the ideal student -- quiet, orderly, and conforming -- but rather call out answers, act out, interrupt, and misbehave, in general, much more frequently than do females. These behaviors constitute successful attempts at attracting attention (and interactions with teachers) and are an important element in gender-related activity in the classroom that must be understood by teachers and accounted for in striving for gender equity in total interactions.
Table 3 Frequencies of negative interactions by gender and taping session.(*)
1st Video Taping 2nd Video Taping Males 19 23(**) Females 12 6(**)
(*) Chi-Square = 5.16 (significant with 1 df at alpha = .05).
(**) Significant by standardized residuals (expected cell frequencies, 15).
Results of this study support the use of strategies to help teachers understand their behaviors and create a more equitable atmosphere in the classroom. This suggests that the teachers, after completing the activities in the self-directed gender resource module, were more cognizant of their behaviors, their students' actions, and the effects of these behaviors on their female students' self-esteem and achievement.
This research and future research on gender equity in the classroom will contribute to the knowledge base, helping to establish equity in education for females in the future. Ultimately, achievement of gender equity in the classroom will allow females to participate more fully in their education, improving the probability that females will have an equal place in both the workforce and society in general.
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Kelly Jones, Cay Evans, Ronald Byrd and Kathleen Campbell, College of Education, Louisiana State University, Shreveport.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Cay Evans, College of Education, One University Place, Louisiana State University in Shreveport, Shreveport, Louisiana 71115 Telephone: (318) 797-5037: e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org…