4 Strategies to Bring Gender Equity to the Science Classroom
Research-Based Practices for Making Science Accessible to Students of All Genders
Education stakeholders, including teachers, district leaders, parents, and community members, largely share in their concerns about addressing the gender-based inequities surrounding science education and STEM-based careers. Dr. Dale Baker of the Mary Lou Fulton Teacher’s College at Arizona State University has recently authored a white paper summarizing key research in science education and gender equity with an emphasis on translating this research into actionable practices. You can download the white paper at the end of this blog or read on for a summary of the key takeaways from Baker’s paper:
Start Promoting Gender Equity Early
Baker takes special care to discuss how to promote gender equity in PreK science education environments. Gender equity in PreK requires that students have ample opportunities to engage in science-based activities that nurture their natural curiosities rather than stifling those interests early on. Baker cites research from The National Science Teachers Association (2014), which recommends that young learners be provided with long-term activities that promote exploration and curiosity. Teachers should also be sure to ask open-ended questions, engage with both boys and girls, pay close attention to girls’ interests in relation to science, and leverage literature as a way to foster an interest in science across genders.
Focus on Self-Efficacy
Baker stresses the importance of fostering competence, confidence, and self-efficacy in all science students. Teachers can contribute to girls’ self-efficacy by creating opportunities for girls to engage in challenging tasks successfully and providing positive messages about competence. Science teachers can also boost self-efficacy by bringing science peer role models to the classroom and organizing learning activities that are not perceived as more appropriate or suitable for a specific gender.
Curriculum and Pedagogy Matter
Curriculum and pedagogy can either serve to promote gender equity in science or can contribute to widening the gap. In the white paper, Baker provides a high-level overview of a few key research findings in the space. Here is a robust list of strategies that research indicates are effective in promoting gender equity in science education:
- Student-centered active learning tasks
- Open-ended, real-world problems
- Collaborative work monitored for equitable participation across genders
- Group discussions
- Content that is relevant to students in relation to their personal interests and career aspirations
Moving beyond gender diversity, Baker also notes that educators should be careful to address the diverse needs of English learners in science class, who may need additional supports in developing strong scientific discourse skills through communicative activities — for which gender dynamics should also be considered.
Connect to College and Career
Baker suggests that educators use design-based activities to encourage students of all genders to experiment with engineering while addressing the Next Generation Science Standards. Hands-on activities in which students actively engage with complex science concepts can contribute to identity development in girls positively associated with STEM careers. Educators can also open windows to STEM careers for girls by actively aligning activities and projects to real-world issues that their female students individually care about.
To read Dr. Baker’s paper in full, and to discover more teaching strategies and supporting research around gender equity in science education, see below or click here.
Fredricks, J. A., Hofkens, T. , Wang, M. , Mortenson, E. and Scott, P. (2018), Supporting girls’ and boys’ engagement in math and science learning: A mixed methods study. J Res Sci Teach, 55: 271–298. doi:10.1002/tea.21419
National Science Teachers Association 2014. NSTA Position Statement Early Childhood Education. www.org/about/positions/early childhood.aspx