Women Still Face "Chilly Classroom Climate."(classroom Environment in Women's Education)

By Morgan, Joan | Black Issues in Higher Education, March 7, 1996 | Go to article overview

Women Still Face "Chilly Classroom Climate."(classroom Environment in Women's Education)


Morgan, Joan, Black Issues in Higher Education


To ensure that women are treated fairly in college classrooms it is not enough for colleges to end discriminatory behavior. They need to change a "chilly classroom climate," says a new study by the National Association for Women in Education.

The report by the National Association for Women in Education offers solutions to the state of affairs last highlighted by NAWE 16 years ago when it said women faced diminished opportunities for learning and advancement in American colleges. The new findings focused on the cumulative effect not only of behaviors and biases but of other factors, including the lack of role models, teaching style and curriculum content.

The report, which was released in late February, was written by Dr. Bernice Resnick Sandler, a senior scholar in residence at NAWE, Lisa Silverberg, a women's education and health expert, and Roberta M. Hall, director of foundation relations at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN.

Troublesome practices by faculty members identified by the study included: using women students as examples in hypothetical situations with sexual or other inappropriate overtones; interrupting women's comments more than men's; responding extensively to men's comments with praise, criticism or coaching but to women with patronizing brush-offs; and attributing women's achievement to luck or affirmative action but men's to talent or ability. The study even documented the tendency of faculty members to frown more at women than men students.

To conduct the study the authors examined dozens of quantitative and qualitative studies, conference procedings, video recordings of classroom discussions and other information, including anecdotal information submitted by students.

The report, funded by the Lilly Endowment and the Fund for the Improvement of Post-secondary Education, made 270 recommendations that could be made by administration, faculty and students at little or no cost to institutions.

Some of the recommendations were:

* Institutions should develop a process involving the whole campus community to examine the institutional climate and recommend changes.

* Institutions should ensure that all programs and initiatives are responsive to the concerns of women of color and other groups of women. …

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