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Gender and University Teaching

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

Message Number: 
354

So, for example, our results indicate, that the key to successful methods of sharing power are techniques that simultaneously reinforce the professors' subject matter authority. Attempts to impart effective teaching strategies must incorporate this delicate balance of power and authority with classroom openness.

Folks:

The posting below is a summary of some of the studies that examine faculty gender roles in the classroom. It is from: GENDER AND UNIVERSITY TEACHING, A NEGOTIATED DIFFERENCE, by Anne Statham, Laurel Richardson and Judith A. Cook. Published by: State University of New York Press, Albany, NY. ? 1991 State University of New York, all rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

Regards,

Rick Reis

reis@stanford.edu

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Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

 

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GENDER AND UNIVERSITY TEACHING

 

Chapter 7. Conclusions And Implications For Teachers And Administrators Practical Applications Of The Study's Findings: Implications For Professors

As far as university teaching is concerned, our results make two points. First, men and women use approaches that are different in many ways. Second, these approaches lead to equally desirable outcomes, at least so far as student evaluations are concerned. Thus, any efforts to impart knowledge about teaching itself must explore a range of techniques, including organizing lectures, effectively delivering material, involving students, generating more student participation of higher quality, and sharing power with students in the classroom. So, for example, our results indicate, that the key to successful methods of sharing power are techniques that simultaneously reinforce the professors' subject matter authority. Attempts to impart effective teaching strategies must incorporate this delicate balance of power and authority with classroom openness.

While many academic departments have recently instituted programs to assist graduate students in becoming effective teachers, it is our impression that these efforts tend to be based upon the male model of teaching. For example, one of the authors attended a workshop directed by a highly respected leader in the field of teaching sociology. During the workshop this individual referred to the "mother hen" method of teaching, obviously viewing the methods we found most often used by women as irrelevant to the task of conveying the material. We hope that our findings will broaden the scope and diversity of teaching methods recognized as effective and as well received by students.

Our results indicate that many women professors experience a type of double bind, the result of managing discrepant statuses. Thus, they had to recognize the emotional stress generated by this bind and develop ways to deal effectively with it. Some of the women faculty we interviewed told us that they shared their reactions to their stress with our junior faculty, particularly other women assistant professors. Some women discussed their conflicts with senior faculty known to be sympathetic to students' needs; however, this strategy had the danger of backfiring negatively on the professors' chances of promotion if the senior member chose to share this knowledge with other members of the department. Other women professors talked with their spouses and partners, read "how to be a manager" books, or used physical exercise and meditation to manage teaching stress.

Our results also highlight the importance of learning to balance the sometimes overwhelming requirements of teaching along with other parts of an academic career such as community service, research, and publishing. At this university, the rewards for the latter two far exceeded the former two, and some women tended to get "bogged down" in becoming good teachers to the detriment of their ability to gain tenure and promotion. This was especially likely if the new teacher simultaneously was dealing with student challenges to her subject matter authority, often leading her to feel inadequate and to overemphasize students' reactions. Teachers need to recognize that some students' problems arise from the students themselves, and that faculty can only go so far in helping students with racism, sexism, homophobia, or other prejudices as they try to cope with the challenges of academic life.

Finally, faculty can benefit from recognizing how the presentation of self in the classroom influences professors' ability to manage authority and to create effective learning environments. Collaborative approaches to learning are indeed influenced by the manner in which students perceive and react to aspects such as dress, styles of speech, gestures, voice volume, and inflection. Men and women professors who ignore these aspects might encounter impediments in their efforts to establish satisfying relationships with students.