Gender and Cultural Issues in Teaching science

Gender and Cultural Issues in
Teaching science
Blake, S. (1993). Are you turning female and minority
students away from science? Science and Children, 31(4),
Trowbridge, L. W., Bybee, R. W., & Powell J. C. (2004).
Teaching secondary school science. Upper Saddle River, NJ:
• Have you ever experienced or seen
gender or cultural biases in science
• Are these issues primarily historical?
• To what extent are science teachers
responsible for making their teaching
Why are gender and cultural
differences an issue for science
• Achievement gaps (NAEP-National Assessment
of Educational Progress
– Pronounced differences between girls & boys by 13,
larger by 17
– Significant differences between whites and minorities
at all ages.
• Females and minorities are underrepresented in
science related professions.
– Females have made huge strides in the biological
• Females and minorities report less
experience with science
– Less exposure to topical science issues
– Less practice with scientific devices and
• Low income and minority students, on
average, are more likely to have less
qualified teachers.
Disturbing Research Trends
• Teachers call more frequently on males.
• Teachers address males by name more
frequently than females.
• Teachers give males more time to answer
• Female and minority students tend to
receive less teacher feedback.
Research Continued…
• Minorities are more likely to feel alienated
or discouraged by teacher comments.
• Minorities are less likely to feel personal
relevance to science topics.
• Male and Western cultural bias in
problems and texts.
• Competitive classroom environments tend
to alienate females and some cultural
Possible explanations…
• Males tend to call out (and act out) more
than females. Therefore they are more
likely to get teacher attention.
• Teachers may grow to expect less in terms
of performance and behavior from males
and become harder on females. Females
learn to disengage.
Potential Sources of Bias
• Teacher bias
• Student bias
• Course material bias
• Parental bias
• “The teacher handed back tests saying, ‘Boys,
you are failing. These three pretty cookies are
outscoring you guys on every test.’ He told the
boys it was embarrassing for them to be beaten
by a girl.” (1 of 3 girls in an AP physics class)
• “There is one guy and he is really, really smart…
and he kind of looks at me like I’m not supposed
to be in the class…When I get a good mark on
my test, I feel really good because I proved that
I’m not stupid, that I can do it too.” (Female HS
physics student)
What can you do?
• Choose activities and materials that are
free from sexual or cultural stereotypes.
• Ease the stress of competition.
• Promote cooperative group work.
• Use hands-on investigations.
• Emphasize the practical applications of
science and how it relates to student lives.
• Give equal feedback to all.
• Acknowledge contributions of female and
minority students and scientists.
• Use wait-time.
• Maintain high expectations for all.
• Carefully consider the resources you use.
• Respect cultural differences.