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