There are lots of stereotypes about the ways boys and girls learn, and this perceived gender gap can have major implications for education.
The once prevalent belief that boys are more scientifically adept and girls are stronger in humanities is no longer recognized as accurate, yet the gender gap still exists regarding interest and success in STEM topics. The American Psychological Association (APA) shows that the gender gap in mathematics excellence is much smaller in recent years than it was 30 years ago. The APA found that out of “students scoring in the top one in 10,000 in mathematics in 1983, there were 13 boys for every girl…since then, until 2007, that gap has shrunk to somewhere between 2.8 and four boys for every girl.”
Through examining this data, we can see a positive shift in female student math aptitude, which the APA attributes to a changing cultural attitude that is more accepting of female STEM students. Unfortunately, attitudes of some parents and teachers reinforce the stereotype that STEM is for boys, therefore girls should focus on other more traditionally female-friendly subjects. Luckily, there are simple things teachers can do to combat this misconception.
Grow the Child, Fight the Gap
The tendency to encourage boys to pursue STEM might not be intentional, in fact teachers probably do not recognize the ways in which they are telling girls to focus on what they view as more gender-appropriate coursework. Learn about methods to cultivate a growth mindset among students who are not making progress in STEM areas. Show students that the barriers to their success are not due an unchanging inability and they will grasp concepts if they work hard to understand lessons.
Offer Parental Guidance
Though teachers must remain cognizant of the ways in which their own biases might affect teaching approaches toward boys and girls, they must also consider influences from outside the classroom. Parents and other family members might be the ones inhibiting female student growth in the classroom. After conducting self-examination of teaching approaches to female students, considering class environment, feedback, and classmate relationships, teachers should explore the possibility that the attitudes of parents could be hindering a pupil’s success. Request a meeting with parents to discuss how best to cultivate their child’s educational growth.
In STEM bachelor-degree programs and careers, there still exists a gender gap between male and female candidates, with boys leading in this sector. While the old boys’ club still exists in certain industries such as STEM, construction, or mechanical work, the gender gap within general college education leaves male student enrollment trailing behind that of female undergraduates, according to Pew Research Group.
The report shows that in 2012, 71 percent of female students enrolled in college immediately after high-school graduation, compared to 61 percent of males. While these statistics provide hope for closing the gender gap in careers that require a bachelor’s degree, shifting the ways in which girls are educated is necessary to see a similar trend in STEM fields.
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