Textbooks causing science gender gap


This video from the USA is called Oakland Program Aims to Pique Girls’ Interest in Science, Tech Careers.

A video from England which used to be on YouTube used to say about itself:

12 March 2010 — A look at the work Skyswood Primary School in St Albans is doing to encourage girls to enjoy science. When the staff at the school gave the children an annual questionnaire about subjects, they were alarmed to discover that while 70 per cent of boys loved science, only 30 per cent of girls had the same level of enjoyment. The school adopted a number of initiatives to tackle the issue, including more school visits, more science-related visitors in school, and more practical lessons.

From World Science:

Mostly-male book images may reduce girls’ science scores

April 23, 2010
Special to World Science

Part of the rea­son boys tend to out­score girls in sci­ence clas­ses may be that most text­books show pre­dom­i­nantly male sci­en­tists’ im­ages, a small ex­plor­a­to­ry study has found.

The stu­dy, on 81 young high-school stu­dents, saw the “gen­der gap” ap­par­ently re­versed when youths were tested based on a text con­tain­ing only female sci­ent­ist im­ages, in­ves­ti­ga­tors said. The gap re­turned in its usu­al form when ma­le-only im­ages were used—and van­ished when the pho­tos showed equal num­bers of men and wom­en sci­en­tists, re­search­ers said.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tors cau­tioned, based on the small sam­ple size and oth­er fac­tors, that it’s un­real­is­tic to ex­pect it would be so easy to erase the gen­der gap in real life.

None­the­less, the find­ings hint that “pro­vid­ing stu­dents with di­verse role mod­els with­in text­book im­ages” may be an im­por­tant step, the re­search­ers wrote in re­port­ing their re­sults. The stu­dy, by Jes­si­ca J. Good of Rut­gers Uni­vers­ity in New Jer­sey and col­leagues, is pub­lished in the March-Ap­ril is­sue of the Jour­nal of So­cial Psy­chol­o­gy.

Oth­er re­search­ers have pro­posed that so­ci­e­ty can wipe out the pe­r­for­mance gap—which has al­ready shrunk­en in re­cent years—by mak­ing stronger ef­forts to give both sexes si­m­i­lar re­sources and op­por­tun­i­ties. A 2004 re­port by the U.S. Cen­ter for Educa­t­ion Sta­tis­tics not­ed that the pre­vi­ous year, sci­ence scores for eighth-grade boys ex­ceeded those for eighth-grade girls in 28 out of 34 coun­tries sur­veyed.

In the study on text­book im­ages, ninth- and tenth-grade stu­dents, 29 male and 52 fema­le, were asked to read a three-page chem­is­try text with one pho­to per page. Stu­dents were ran­domly as­signed one of three ver­sions of the read­ing: one whose pic­tures showed all male sci­en­tists, anoth­er with only female sci­en­tists and one with equal num­bers of sci­en­tists of both sexes. The text it­self was the same in all cases.

The stu­dents, who had no pri­or for­mal chem­is­try train­ing, were next di­rect­ed to take a short test on the read­ing.

Girls did sig­nif­i­cantly bet­ter when us­ing the text with wom­en-only im­ages, the in­ves­ti­ga­tors re­ported. Boys did bet­ter with the men-only im­ages, though the dif­fer­ence here did­n’t reach a sta­tis­ti­cally sig­nif­i­cant lev­el. Over­all, av­er­age scores were high­er for girls than boys among all stu­dents who got the wom­en-only ver­sion.

The com­mon pre­dom­i­nance of ma­le-sci­ent­ist im­ages in text­books is a case of what some read­ers would pe­rceive as “stereo­type threat,” a phe­nom­e­non first de­scribed by re­search­ers at Stan­ford Uni­vers­ity in Cal­i­for­nia in the mid-1990s, ac­cord­ing to Good and col­leagues.

Ster­e­o­type threat oc­curs when a test-taker is pre­sented with, or freshly re­minded of, a ster­e­o­type that re­flects neg­a­tively on his or her abil­i­ties in the sub­ject mat­ter at hand. Stud­ies have found that ster­e­o­type threats push down the test-taker’s score, in the same di­rec­tion the ster­e­o­type would pre­dict.

Thus a pre­dom­i­nance of ma­le-sci­ent­ist im­ages in the ma­jor­ity of sci­ence text­books may re­in­force pop­u­lar no­tions that girls are worse at sci­ence, and then lead to re­sults in line with those ideas, said Good and col­leagues.

Ster­e­o­type threats have been found to af­fect mi­nor­i­ties as well as fema­les. And the new find­ings sug­gest ster­e­o­type threat might work both ways—hurt­ing not only those dis­fa­vored by a com­mon ster­e­o­type, but those fa­vored as well. In par­tic­u­lar, al­though the pop­u­lar ster­e­o­type is that boys are the top pe­rformers in sci­ence, Good’s re­sults hinted that boys’ scores, too, might suf­fer if they saw pic­tures that cut against the flat­ter­ing ster­e­o­type.

A sim­ple so­lu­tion that pre­s­ents it­self, though it re­quires more re­search, would be “mixed-gen­der text­book im­ages,” the re­search­ers wrote. These “may rep­re­sent a sim­ple and cost-ef­fec­tive way to rem­e­dy the neg­a­tive ef­fects of stereo­typic text­book im­ages.”

They cau­tioned that not­with­stand­ing the lat­est re­sults, oth­er stud­ies have found that re­mov­ing ster­e­o­type threats does­n’t com­pletely elim­i­nate pe­r­for­mance gaps among dif­fer­ent groups, though it helps.

How ex­actly ster­e­o­type-threat ef­fects work is un­known, Good and col­leagues said, al­though there is ev­i­dence that they ope­rate largely sub­con­scious­ly. Pos­si­ble rea­sons may in­clude anx­i­e­ty or in­tru­sive thoughts caused by the ster­e­o­type threat, they wrote. Anoth­er ex­plana­t­ion may be that there is a sub­con­scious ten­den­cy to con­form to so­ci­e­tal ex­pecta­t­ions.

“Re­search should in­ves­t­i­gate the in­flu­ence of di­verse role mod­els pre­sented in text­books as a way of im­prov­ing pe­r­for­mance of mul­ti­ple ster­e­o­typed groups, not just wom­en,” the in­ves­ti­ga­tors con­clud­ed. “Although elim­i­nat­ing gen­der bi­as in text­books will most likely not erad­i­cate the gen­der gap in sci­ence in­ter­est and achieve­ment, it will beg­in to chip away at an ev­er crum­bling founda­t­ion.”

Girls are more interested in studying science if topics are presented in a female friendly way. This is one of the findings of Dr Sylvie Kerger [of] the University of Luxembourg whose research is published online [in] the British Journal of Educational Psychology by BPS Journals in partnership with Wiley-Blackwell: here.

Stereotypes about math and gender are learned young: here.

ScienceDaily (June 26, 2012) — Understanding how a species battles to sustain itself in a challenging habitat is a cornerstone of ecological research; now scientists have applied this approach to science itself to discover why women are being driven out of academia. Their results, published in Oikos, reveals how a gender imbalance in science and academia is maintained by institutional barriers: here.

Women in science: In pursuit of female chemists: here.

Gender gap in science around the world: here.

Women account for nearly two-thirds of the 776 million illiterate adults in the world: here.

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3 thoughts on “Textbooks causing science gender gap

  1. thats a surprising information, i have read alot about females being better than males in language, and males being better than females in sciences and maths, but this post is of a new kind

  2. Pingback: Anti-women bias in scientific jounals | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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