This is a forum post I wrote for uni after collecting data on gender bias in the classroom. Mr Andrews is a fictitious teacher, but his unconscious bias demonstrated for learning purposes in the video stirred me up.
Based on data collected using the duration recording technique, I measured that overall Mr Andrews spent more than twice as much time talking to boys than girls during the maths lesson.
He also interacted with boys twice as many times as he did with girls.
He only ever addressed the class as a whole as ‘guys’, called the boys by their names often but called girls ‘darling’, gave twice as much positive feedback, to boys, with multiple repetitions of ‘excellent, well done, good boy’ for correct answers, and even a whole-class round of applause for one boy; where girls giving correct answers were often responded to with a neutral ‘ok’. Mr Andrews offered boys extra vocab and very close help, including holding the protractor for them, giving physical examples of angles, pointing to the page, giving them the answer then praising them for getting it right, even writing the answer in for one boy. When it was time to move on to text book work, he walked the boy over to the books and gave a detailed explanation, and for a girl he just gave a short verbal instruction. At least three times, girls with their hands up were ignored, and even when a boy gave a wrong answer but had the first letter right, Mr Andrews said ‘it starts with R, that’s exactly right’. He allowed boys to talk over girls, and when didn’t give girls anywhere near the same level of scaffolded prompting he gave to boys. He also made much closer physical contact with the boys.
Overall, he seemed to convey that he believed it was important for the boys to get it, and that they at least needed to believe in their right to believe in their own abilities. Sadly for the girls in the class, their understanding doesn’t seem to be as highly valued. This is likely to set them up to believe that it doesn’t matter if they don’t get it, that they’re not expected to get it as well as the boys, and that they don’t deserve the same airspace as they boys in class. Obviously this narrows their options in terms of career paths and course choices in university if they have been taught reduced self efficacy in STEM subjects. Being patronised for wanting to engage in their learning, whilst boys are being given so much extra support increases the disparity. This is so unhealthy for the classroom ecology, not just for the girls, but for the boys as well. Male privilege is unearned and harmful to society, so having it normalised within an educational setting during childhood makes it a bigger job for these children to undo as their agency increases in life. Grooming young males to believe in their own entitlement as being a higher priority than that of females underpins domestic and sexual violence, as well as disparity in workplaces and governments. So I believe it is imperative that teachers are working to redress this consciously and fairly in our approach to the students in our classrooms.
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