Gender plays a role in every classroom, whether we realize it or not. As future educators, we are going to be telling our students about how their gender is supposed to act. At times, we are going to know when we are doing this, but at other times we are not going to realize we are doing it. It is important for us to make sure we are aware of what we are saying and teaching students because we do not know how it will affect them. Another way that gender affects students is that it can actually help or hinder them in their success in school. Gender affects students of all ages, including those in college, not just students in primary or secondary education.
There are a lot of terms that are similar that relate to this topic, so let’s try and make sense of them. All of the following definitions I got from the textbook Educational Psychology by Anita Woolfolk (2014). Gender refers to traits and behaviors that a particular culture judges to be appropriate for men and for women. A gender identity is the sense of self as male or female as well as the beliefs one has about gender roles and attributes. Note that there is a difference between gender and sex. A person’s sex is biological and is obviously different for men and women. The last definition that is important to know is one for gender roles. Gender roles are expectations about how males and females should behave. Our society believes that males should act masculine and females should act feminine.
When we are educators or speech pathologists, how we interact and what we say to our students could hinder their learning potential. When we tell girl students who are playing rough, we may be telling them not to act like boys. If we would not tell boys who were playing a little rough like the girls to stop, why do we tell girls to stop? This is where gender roles come in to play. Our society believes that girls should be more quiet and when playing, not get their clothes dirty or messed up. As future teachers, we need to be able to identify these situations and know when we should and should not say anything. Another thing we may be doing with or without realizing it is saying that one sex is better at doing something than the other. A study done by Sara Neuburger et al. (2012) reveals that when told boys are better at a task, girls’ performance rates go down. It also works the same for boys.
There has been a lot of research done on how gender affects students in the classroom. The gender of a peer, mentor, or teacher could influence how well a student does on a task or in the class. If a first grader sees someone of the same gender successfully completing a task, they will increase their own effort on that same task (Elmore & Oyserman 2012) This means that if a child sees a peer the opposite gender completing a task successfully, they will decrease their effort on the task (Elmore & Oyserman 2012).
Gender also has a role in the college classrooms as well. College students can be similar to the first graders in the sense that if they see a peer doing something successfully they will as well. Another way gender effects the college classrooms is what the professor identifies them self as. If you have a female professor who is very successful in her field, people who identify as women in that class are more likely to do better on tests and homework. Female professors play a big role in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) classes. There are not a large number of female students in STEM classes or getting degrees from a STEM subject. Amanda Griffith (2014) found in her study that it is important to have female professors in these fields because they serve as a role model to the female students. This could help more female students decide to go into those classes and help more females want to get degrees in those areas.
This video explains more about what this post is starting to go into. One of the most important things that this video talks about is how girls are not the only ones affected by gender bias in the classroom. Often, boys are seen as more rowdy and are seen to misbehave more than girls. Which also causes an increase in the referrals for special education for male students. Some other important points it makes are that girls are often denied access to gifted and talented programs and boys on average get more attention from the teacher than female students. This attention is both positive and negative. This video also is nice because it gives visuals to help people understand just how much this affects us all.
Elmore, Kristen C. & Oyserman, Daphna. (2012). If ‘we’ can succeed, ‘I’ can too: Identity-based motivation and gender in the classroom. Contemporary Educational Psychology. vol. 37. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cedpsych.2011.05.003
Griffith, A. L. (2014). Faculty Gender in the College Classroom: Does It Matter for Achievement and Major Choice?. Southern Economic Journal, 81(1), 211-231. doi:10.4284/0038-4038-2012.100
Neuburger, S., Jansen, P., Heil, M., & Quaiser-Pohl, C. (2012). A threat in the classroom: Gender stereotype activation and mental-rotation performance in elementary-school children. Zeitschrift Für Psychologie/Journal of Psychology, 220(2), 61-69. Retrieved from https://libproxy.uww.edu:9443/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1020190253?accountid=14791
Woolfolk, Anita. (2014). Educational Psychology (12th ed.). New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.