Does sex matter?

r-CLASSROOM-HANDS-large570 From the Journal of Higher Education (Nov./Dec. 2013), here’s the abstract:

We conducted an observational study to examine the effect of student and professor gender on college classroom participation and faculty-student interactions. A main effect for professor gender emerged, with more voluntary responses in female-taught classes. As the percentage of males present increased, overall voluntary responses and professor praise decreased.

I am not so sure about their use of “gender” as a synonym for “sex,” but whatever. This article by Tatum et al. raises a number of interesting questions. Is there a difference in patterns of class participation for male and female professors in your discipline? Does the presence of more male students change this pattern? And if so, what can you do to alter the pattern? The study reports that “[f]emale professors were more likely to follow up on students’ comments, praise students’ verbal participation, and provide more corrections to students.” Should we male professors be learning something from these findings? If “[f]emale professors may have created an atmosphere in which students felt more comfortable participating because their responses were extrinsically reinforced more often by the instructor,” maybe male professors should be doing something differently.

About Thomas Mayo

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