From “How Schools Shortchange Girls,” by the American Association of University Women:
A large body of research indicates that teachers give more classroom attention and more esteem building encouragement to boys. In a study conducted by Myra and David Sadker, boys in elementary and middle school called out answers eight times more often than girls. When boys called out, teachers listened. But when girls called out, they were told to “raise your hand if you want to speak.” Even when boys do not volunteer, teachers are more likely to encourage them to give an answer or an opinion than they are to encourage girls.
From the journal Childhood Education (v73 p36-9 Fall 1996):
Teachers call on and interact with boys more than girls (Sadker & Sadker, 1994). This is probably not intentional. During the numerous teacher-student interactions that occur over the course of the school day, boys use creative and effective techniques to catch the teacher’s attention. Boys quickly raise their hands to respond or contribute to discussions, wave their hand around and up and down, change the arm they have raised when it gets tired, jump out of their seat and make noise or plead with the teacher to call on them. Girls, however, raise their hand but will soon put it down if they are not acknowledged. As a result, teachers call on boys and interact with them most of the time, while girls’ passive, compliant behavior often means they are ignored. [...]
In addition to allowing boys more time to respond, teachers often extend boy’s answers by asking a follow-up question or by asking them to support their previous response. Girls are more likely to receive an “accepted” response from teachers such as “Okay” or “Uh-huh.” [...]Carmen’s answer prompted only the comment “Okay.” These behaviors send a very negative message about the importance of girls’ contributions to class discussions. [...]
Teachers tolerate more calling out from boys than from girls. Boys call out answers (when the teacher does not call on them) eight times more often than girls do (Sadker & Sadker, 1994). Teachers often respond to boys’ calling out, thus reinforcing the behavior. When girls call out, however, teachers are more likely to remind them that they are not following the class rules. [...]
In one area females usually receive more attention than boys–physical appearance. Girls receive compliments more often than boys on their clothing, hairstyle and overall appearance (Sadker & Sadker, 1994). This emphasis on appearance also influences how their school work is evaluated (Dweck, Davidson, Nelson & Enna, 1978). Girls receive praise for neatness while boys receive recognition for academic achievements.
From “Gender issues in the classroom” (Clearing House, Jul/Aug97, Vol. 70, Issue 6).
David and Myra Sadker researched gender equity in the classroom for over twenty years, and in a 1989 investigation with Lynette Long they explored the progress of gender equity in classrooms since the passage of Title IX. In a follow-up book, Failing at Fairness: How America’s Schools Cheat Girls (1995), the Sadkers, drawing on numerous interviews with students and teachers, found that micro-inequities occur daily in classroom interactions. Included in their study, which investigated verbal interaction patterns in elementary, secondary, and college classrooms in a variety of settings and subject areas, are the findings that girls receive fewer academic contacts, are asked lower level questions, and are provided less constructive feedback and encouragement than boys — all of which translates into reduced preparation for independent effort. The Sadkers posit that this imbalance in attention, coupled with the quality and quantity of interaction, results in the lowering of girls’ levels of achievement and self-esteem.
There is a need for more recent research; I certainly hope things have improved. However, the relatively few recent academic articles on this subject usually find that bias in the classroom remains a problem.1 And even if things are getting better, the effects of how children were taught 10, 20, 40 years ago will unfortunately be with us for quite some time.
- Recent examples include “Gender Bias In The Classroom,” Childhood Education v. 81 no. 4, Summer 2005, p. 221-7; and “Three Third-Grade Teachers’ Gender-Related Beliefs and Behavior,” Elementary School Journal, Sep2001, Vol. 102 Issue 1. [↩]