Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Female students more likely to succeed if taught by female Professors

A new study by three economists has found that female students (air force cadets who must take standardised courses) are more likely to succeed if they are taught by female Professors. Interestingly, it is the strongest students who appear to be most advantaged by having female teachers. Students who were already strong at science - those likeliest to succeed - were more likely to major in the subject if they had female teachers for introductory courses, though the gender of teachers didn't have an impact on the likelihood of average students choosing a science major.
The researchers examined the academic records of every student who graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy from 2000 to 2008 — more than 9,000 students in all. They found that women, and especially those with high mathematics-SAT scores, performed significantly better in introductory science courses if the courses were taught by women. Over all, the study found, “having a female professor reduces the gender gap in course grades by approximately two-thirds.”

The study estimates that female students with strong math skills were 26 percentage points more likely to graduate with a science major if all of their intro-level science professors were women than if all of their intro-level science professors were men.

And was there a reverse effect? Did male students abandon science if their intro-level science courses were taught by women? Apparently not. For male students of all abilities, the study did not find any significant professor-gender effects.
Is such a gender effect specific to this particular learning environment? The researchers argued that the compulsory and uniform nature of the courses overcomes some of the factors that researchers at a regular college would have to consider, such as whether motivated students seek out female teachers.


Anonymous said...

I'd be hesitant about presuming that a study that restricted itself to members of the armed forces had application into the general populace. Very different culture there, especially vis a vis gender

A shame because on the surface this would be an argument for all teachers being female!

Anna said...

Point taken about the applicability of this study - but I do think that role modelling does have some impact on learning. I would expect that if there were more female teachers and industry players in the relevant areas, the % of women doing Modern Apprenticeships would be much greater.

Does the opposite also apply - ie do boys studying subjects that aren't traditionally masculine do better with male teachers? There's a lot of fretting about the feminisation of schooling and boys under-performing, but I wonder if that's because boys are led to believe that academic success is girly (with all the negative connotations that has)?

A Nonny Moose said...

Well, that's the complete opposite of my scholastic success - everything I succeeded in I had male teachers, and damn good ones at that. And when I went from top of the class in one subject 5th form, to lost in the mix in 7th form it was because of a female teacher (who blatantly out right said she wouldn't teach me because I wasn't doing bursary).

I'd be hoping attitudes have changed in the last 20 years, but in my experience at an all girls school, the men were far LESS gender biased (even when I DID have mixed classes on the rare occasions) than the women teachers. There were some real embedded old school agendas in there.

I feel the same happened at Uni - the male tutors were great, and I felt like I was "competition" (in an industry sense) to the female tutors.

Mebbe that's just me *shrug* mebbe I'm the anomaly in the study.

Dave said...

Its not peer reviewed. Which is relevant