Teachers Think Girls Are Bad At Math: Prediction — CS teachers have similar biases

July 10, 2015 at 7:54 am 2 comments

I predict that if we did this study with CS teachers, we’d find the same result.  The belief that CS is for males and not for females is deeply ingrained in the perceptions of our field.  Kahneman would tell us that it’s part of our System 1 thinking (see NYTimes Book Review).  What do you think teachers would draw if asked to “draw a computer scientist“?  I predict that the gender bias that favors males as computer scientists would be greater for post-secondary teachers than for secondary or elementary teachers.  Most secondary school CS teachers that I’ve met are sensitive to issues of gender diversity in computing, and they actively encourage their female students.  Most post-secondary CS teachers with whom I’ve worked are not sensitized to issues of women in computing and have not changed how they teach to improve gender diversity (see example here).

In the study, teachers graded the math tests of 11-year-olds and, on average, the scores were lower for girls. But, when different teachers graded the same tests anonymously, the girls performed far better (out-performing the boys in many cases.)

Dr. Edith Sand, one of the researchers, told American Friends of Tel Aviv University, that the issue wasn’t overt and obvious sexism, but “unconscious discouragement.”

The study goes on to say that the gender biases held by elementary school teachers have an “asymmetric effect” on their students — the boys’ performance benefits and girls’ performance suffers based on the teacher’s biases. Boys do well because teachers believe they will, girls don’t because teachers believe they won’t.

via Yikes! Turns Out Even Teachers Think Girls Are Bad At Math – MTV.

Entry filed under: Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. dennisfrailey  |  July 10, 2015 at 8:17 am

    In the past several years I’ve taught increasingly larger numbers of non-US students. An interesting side effect is that I frequently cannot tell whether they are men or women from their names. And many of the students are taking the course by distance education. So when I’m grading a paper, I have no idea whether I’m grading the paper of a man or a woman.
    The result has been to perhaps break some of these unconscious biases. For example, I grade students on their writing and last semester the best ones were men whereas the ones who got the math formulas best were women. I don’t have enough data points yet to draw any conclusions but my preliminary hypothesis is that you have to consider them equal until evidence proves otherwise.

  • 2. gflint  |  July 10, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    Interesting. In 30 years of teaching high school math the girls consistently score higher than boys. They seem to be more focused and willing to work harder. In 30 years of teaching CS when I do get a girl in the class I see the same result. I do not get many girls in CS and they seem, on average, to be less interested in the subject but they are more meticulous and methodical than the scatter brained males. As a result of this experience I have developed a bias, I expect the girls to do better, and they do. I also treat boys and girls different in class. Their motivating factors and influences are different. The expectations however have to stay the same.


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