Gender bias in education

Mark writes:

"Here’s a really interesting experiment to try, if you have the opportunity. Visit an elementary school classroom. First, just watch the teacher interact with the students while they’re teaching. Don’t try to count interactions. Just watch. See if you think that any group of kids is getting more attention than any other. Most of the time, you probably will get a feeling that they’re paying roughly equal attention to the boys and the girls, or to the white students and the black students. Then, come back on a different day, and count the number of times that they call on boys versus calling on girls. I’ve done this, after having the idea suggested by a friend. The result was amazing. I really, honestly believed that the teacher was treating her students (the teacher I did this with was a woman) equally. But when I counted?She was calling on boys twice as often as girls."

I’d love to try this experiment out at my school, but I suspect I will not, and will instead ask my colleagues to try it out on themselves. Like Mark writes, this does not happen because the teachers are sexist, I’m sure they do not feel that they are at all sexist. These problems are systemic in our society, and you need someone on the outside looking in to have a chance at noticing them.



  • Or perhaps the average elementary-age boy is more prone to wandering attention, poking his neighbor, and assorted troublesome behaviors than the average elementary-age girl, and teachers learn to nip such distractions in the bud by calling on the boys more often.

  • David Wees wrote:

    Interestingly enough, I have read that girls often have wandering attention in class, but are less noisy about it, and so receive less feedback from their teachers as a result. I could see this as a possible culprit, but I have noticed that when both genders seem to have reasonably equal attention span (and I do not know that boys actually do have a worse attention span) later in their school careers that boys get called on more often as well.

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