Thesis

Examining gender equity in the elementary school classroom

Despite Title IX and other legislation aimed at equity in education, research shows that gender bias is still a major problem at all levels of schooling. As proponents of equity and democracy, the question of whether boys and girls are actually receiving an equal education looms as an important barometer of democratic practices. My paper will explore this issue and how schools can provide girls equitable educational opportunities. Research has uncovered many problems that need to be addressed and changed. The results of how girls are receiving an inferior education include classroom environment. teacher-student interactions and attention in the classroom, nontraditional and vocational career pursuits. and harassment Who, in general. becomes an empowered learner is dictated by subtle and complex gender biases which affect all aspects of classroom life for students. This includes who interacts most with the teacher; who dominates the classroom; and who generates more learning opportunities? I conducted my study at an elementary school in North San Diego County, which has a low socioeconomic, high minority student population. First I reviewed literature about gender equity in education and examined what has been found in this area of study. Then I researched suggestions for how to best meet the needs of both genders. Next, I conducted my research through observations of students and teachers at one school site in nine classrooms (grades 3-5). Without disclosing the topic of my research to anyone, I observed teacher-student interactions and examined classroom characteristics and environment When gender biases occurred in the classrooms, I recorded frequency counts on observation checklists. In the classrooms where I observed, boys were called on significantly more often than girls were. Furthermore, teachers gave boys far more attention, interactions, follow-up questions, verbal feedback, and class time than they did girls. Boys received more attention in quantity, and they received higher quality interactions. Girls and boys are not receiving an equitable education. Thus, in general, boys become the empowered learners, while girls are sent the message that teachers value boys' education more than that of girls. By not giving girls an equal voice, or making girls feel like their voice is unimportant, it directly affects their self-esteem and their ability to succeed in the classroom and beyond. My study promises to raise awareness, produce dialogue among educators, and facilitate change by offering readers suggestions on how to achieve gender equity in our classrooms. If we allow gender bias to continue to be an obstacle to equitable education, we are cheating half of the U.S. population. Given that this discrimination is not only unjust to girls and women, but to our society, by robbing the country of much of its talent, educators need to empower all students regardless of race, national origin, or gender.

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