Overcoming Gender Inequality in the Classroom

Stanford law Professors Daniel Ho and Mark Kelman have conducted research showing that larger classes in law schools increase gender inequality. The study has relevance to STEM as the findings support other research about teaching in physics.

The study, published in the Journal of Legal Studies, included almost 16,000 grades given to around 1,900 students. The researchers find that pedagogy (teaching philosophy and teacher-student practice) matters to gender outcomes. The authors conclude that smaller classes where teachers provide more feedback reduce gender differences in grade scores. The researchers found that women outperformed men in small, interactive classes focused on practical exercises. The researchers note that similar results have been found in interactive physics courses.

Professor Kelman argues that the finds go against the “common sense” presumption that gender performance are “fixed”:

“Some naïve reactions are that if women get poorer grades at law school, women must be less capable… I think it’s surprising to many – and perhaps a confirmation of a more optimistic view that I have – that much of the inequality we observe in the world is mutable, and that the structures that we sometimes take for granted may work to the advantage of some and the disadvantage of others.”

Sources: The study and quote. Image: Other Sociologist.

[Image: chalk and blackboard with the quote as above from “It’s surprising to many…that much of the inequality…”]

10 thoughts on “Overcoming Gender Inequality in the Classroom

  1. One thing as a scientist myself I’ve really been irked by is the fact that I’m seen as a “Woman Geomorphologist” as opposed to just a “Geomorphologist”! I’m a scientist – my gender has and never had anything to do with my abilities as a scientist or my ability to aquire knowledge! This above all else drives me nuts! I so wish they’d stop “Genderizing” everything! Sorry +Zuleyka Zevallos didn’t mean to draw away from your topic! You’re so awesome and I absolutely ADORE the work you’re doing to help bring these issues to light! Lady Anne ^^ö^^


  2. I understand your frustration Anne Boleyn​. We do need to talk about gender in the sciences (as in other parts of society) because gender inequality is institutional. Many of our colleagues don’t want to see this – if your gender is (cisgender) male then gender seems inconsequential. We need to make gender explicit so we can see what we take for granted. Merit is not rewarded in the same way in science for men and women unless we unpack how the system ignores women’s achievements, or how career interruptions disadvantage women.

    This of course does not mean that women scientists should only be defined by their gender. It’s the difference between, for example, ensuring gender equity in speakers at a conference versus only inviting women keynote scientists to talk about their experience of being a woman in science. While we need the latter conversation this can’t be the main way we increase women’s representation. ☺


  3. +Zuleyka Zevallos thank you so much for responding! Yes, I completely agree with you. And like I said so sorry I drifted away from your main topic! Just something that’s been getting under my collar for a while now! Lol Am so tired of being seen as a “woman” first and a scientist second when to me the important part of that equation is the scientist part, not my gender. As in all fields – for instance was talking the other day about the music group Heart – comment was “wow – what an amazing group of musicians – and their women!” Point here again being what’s the woman part of the equation have to do with it at all? They are great musicians – period – their gender has absolutely nothing to do with it! Sorry lolol like I said totally understand & agree with you and thank you so very much for responding to my post! Lady Anne ^^ö^^


  4. I have observed as a scientist throughout my school and university years that girls (women) have tended to out perform boys (men) in sciences but something seems to happen in late teens/early twenties where their confidence in their abilities drops off with (to my mind) zero justification. The men however appear to grow in stark contrast somewhat disproportionately in confidence and even the really poor performers massively overate themselves. I have watched women drop off the scientific wagon who I have considered top performers for no better reason than they don’t think they are very good at it. Part of this may be the ‘you need to be twice as good at something’ as a woman to get to the same place as a man.


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