Gender discrimination in education Essay

Thesis Statement

There are different conflicting theories for the gender differences in education.

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Introduction

Although the ideas differ, their theories generate from one common theme, society. We’ve also been instructed to be non-judgemental with our diverse population, yet studies show that gender education begins as early as kindergarten and continues throughout college.

 A variety of research has demonstrated that, although unintentional or on a subconscious level, teachers treat male students much differently than their female counterparts. Teachers consistently ask more questions, provide more follow-up or feedback, and have more overall interaction with males. Females are required to complete more work independently, receive more criticism when work is incorrect or incomplete, are called on 75% less in classroom discussions, and receive less constructive responses. This treatment allows males to dominate during activities and discussions and also helps them develop a positive self-esteem. Teachers also demonstrate a tendency to encourage males in the areas of math and science, while females are encouraged in the areas of reading, writing, and social sciences. When females reach high school there is a significant difference in ability level and interest in the area of problem solving, which then results in fewer women pursuing degrees in the areas that dominate our society today. One area of study that illustrates a gender bias is math education.

Some people argue that boys are naturally better at mathematics than girls. According to Martha C. Phelps-Borrowman, Girls tend to like science, math, and computers until adolescence when their interest begins to diminish. Girls do not take higher science, math, and computer science classes as often as boys do. Girls do not go into science, math, and technology careers as often as boys (pg. 1). (http://teachertech.rice.edu) Research has shown that we treat boys and girls differently as early as kindergarten. In Gender Differences in Educational Environments; A research and Comparison Paper, Kathy Perry states, Even at this early stage, teachers tend to ask boys more questions, interact with them more, give males more feedback, and comment more to males in the classroom (pg. 1). (Perry, 2002) Teachers must make sure that they call on girls and boys equitably and give them the same feedback so those girls will continue to enjoy and excel in mathematics.

Using James A. Banks method to teach ethnic diversity in all classrooms we will show how gender equality can be taught in the classroom. Our key concept is gender equality. Our organizing generalization is that women are underrepresented in high-level math classes and mathematical careers. Our intermediate-level generalizations are that it is important for girls/women to be encouraged to take high level math classes and enter mathematical careers. Finally, our lower-level generalization for mathematics is that women can be successful in mathematics if teachers and parents encourage girls in the same manner as they do boys.

In the Banks book An Introduction to Multicultural Education, he lists many different teaching strategies that could be used in a multicultural curriculum. There is a textbook designed for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students published by McDougal Littel titled Mathematics in which the spiraling method is used. This helps students see how different concepts are related to each other and helps students to make generalizations and discover patterns. (Banks, 2002)

The Social Science Inquiry model can also be adapted to empower women in mathematics. At Grand Valley State University, math education students are taught the launch, explore, summary method for writing lesson plans. The launch is the step where students are motivated (Banks’ creating doubt and concern step). At this step, the teacher will explain the activity and get students started. Students will begin to formulate questions about the concept. The explore step is where most of Banks’ Social Science Inquiry steps fit. This is where students will work in-groups to collect data, formulate hypotheses, and define terms/theorems. Usually an activity is designed using real life data or real world situations/problems. This helps students take ownership of the data and motivates them to solve the problem.

During the explore step, the teacher should be a facilitator. To be effective the teacher should just walk around the room and observe students working and only offer suggestions or hints. The summary step incorporates Banks’ evaluation of the data and deriving generalizations and theories. The launch, explore, summary model can be effective in bringing gender issues, as well as other multicultural issues, into the math classroom. For instance, a teacher can use statistics that compare men and women’s salaries in a given career. Students can discuss why they think there are differences between men and women’s salaries and what should be done to change the situation. This gives students of all races, ethnic groups, and genders a way to answer the questions the best way they know how.

The primary purpose of K-12 science education, therefore, must be scientific literacy–an understanding of those aspects of science that are essential for full participation in a democratic society–for all students. This statement illustrates that the state of Michigan recognizes the need for all students to be fully cognizant of current scientific theories and their applications to society. The State of Michigan may acknowledge the importance of scientific literacy for all students, but it has not implemented programs to instruct teachers in how to provide an unbiased scientific education to both genders. (MSBE, 1991) Although this generalization of science education is written to be equitable to all students, practical application of this ideal has not accommodated the needs of female students as well as male students. Gender inequity in science is apparent in how female students perform on standardized tests, perceive scientists from an early age, and how they choose careers.

Female students have not demonstrated the same proficiency on standardized tests as their male counterparts. By age 13, white males scored higher than white females…. at age 17, white males again outscored white females. The preceding statement demonstrates a distinct performance gap between the dominant culture WASP males and females. Other minority groups tested exhibited similar results.

Conclusion

These assessment results raise the question as to why females are not performing as well as males in the subject of science. Female students, however, are outperforming male students in the areas of Reading and Writing. How can a science curriculum be changed to reflect the needs of female students so that these test scores will improve over time? In addition to test scores reflecting gender bias, female students demonstrate early in their student careers that they view scientists as white males (Williams, 2003).

Science curriculum needs to accommodate the requirements and needs of female students and male students. Traditional science teaching has to be reshaped in order for students to appreciate the different contributions of both genders in the development of leading scientific theory. To build a conceptual, multicultural curriculum, it is necessary to choose higher-level powerful concepts such as culture, power, socialization, protest, and values as organizing concepts (Banks,  2002). Just inserting some female scientists in here and there into our overall curriculum cannot solve gender inequity, the problem must be solved by a transformational approach which will reinforce the importance of gender and cultural diversity in science education.

The transformational approach for science education would be concentrated around creating an impartial education that would address the needs of both sexes. By giving equal representation to both gender groups, science education will maintain interest and enthusiasm for learning from both male and females. Specifically, female students would be targeted from an early age to explore female scientific contributions and career exploration. By investigating female career scientists, female students will learn to appreciate the contribution that their particular sex has had in generating current scientific theory. By changing our K-12 curriculum to reflect gender equality, it will empower our female students to perform well on standardized tests and to choose science as a viable career field.

Parents, students and teachers make up the education pyramid that would allow a multicultural science curriculum to work. Parents need to be educated on the importance of producing a student who is literate in cultural, national, and global citizenship. Parents should support and nurture students from a young age in the importance of eliminating racial and gender intolerance in modernized society. From there, teachers need to be trained in new methods and pedagogy for incorporating gender and racial issues into their lessons and classrooms. Students need to be exposed to gender and racial inequities and problems so that they have an appreciation for both the opposite sex and other cultures.

References

Williams, Romona (2003). Critical Literacy and Science Education: Gender and Race. Retrieved from http://ast.ednet.ns.ca/journal/journal2003/Critical%20Literacy.pdf on March 02, 2007

Phelps-Borrowman, Martha C. Gender Equity in education. Retrieved from  http://teachertech.rice.edu/Participants/mborrow/GenderEquity/gendsite.html on March 02, 2007

Banks, James A. (2002). An Introduction To Multicultural Education. Boston: A Pearson Education Company

Michigan State Board of Education. (1991) Michigan Essential Goals and Objectives For Science Education. P.A. 25 of 1990.

Perry, Kathy (2000). Gender Differences in Educational Environments; A research and Comparison Paper. Retrieved on March 02, 2007 from http://www.tc.unl.edu/kaperry/gender%20issues.html

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