We've Come a Long Way--Maybe: New Challenges for Gender Equity in Education
by Renee Spencer, Michelle V. Porche & Deborah L. Tolman - 2003
The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between school-wide gender equity efforts and seventh grade girls' and boys' educational outcomes and psychological functioning. In this paper, we detail the components of the study, which included documenting that this school did in fact have a gender equitable environment; measuring students' perceptions of gender equity in their school experience, academic achievement, self-esteem, and gender ideologies; and conducting classroom observations, focus groups, and individual interviews with a subset of this sample. Our findings from these efforts yielded an unexpected and intriguing contradiction. Overwhelmingly, teachers and students reported in surveys that they perceived their school to be gender fair. Yet classroom observations and interviews with students bring into view serious differentials in how boys and girls experienced, behaved and were treated in their classrooms. The students read these differences in classroom behaviors as reflecting inherent or natural differences between boys and girls; thus, these differences were experienced as equitable. The article concludes with a discussion of how these findings raise questions about, and issue challenges for, current conceptions of gender equity in schools.
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