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In Study, International Physics Teachers Give Female Students Lower Grades Despite Same Answer

In Study, International Physics Teachers Give Female Students Lower Grades Despite Same Answer

A Swedish researcher seeking to document the challenges women face in the science and math subjects conducted a study in which she told teachers in Switzerland, Austria and Germany to grade answers to a physic problem.

All of the answers were the same, with all having some correct aspects and a few errors, but different biographical information was assigned to each fictions students. Pronouns were changed to indicate whether or not a student was male or female.

Of the 750 teachers studied, younger and less experienced teachers were likely to give females worse grades regardless of having similar answers to their fictitious male counterparts.

"But things shift as teachers get more experience. The grades for females gradually go up, while those of males decline, and the gap is largely eliminated after teachers have a decade of experience. There was one exception to this rule: male German teachers. For some reason, their grading showed no gender bias regardless of teaching experience. (Instead, they graded everyone more harshly as they taught longer.)” said

The researcher behind the study, Sarah Hofer, speculated that part of the reason for this phenomenon is that “it mostly involves the mental shortcuts we all take to avoid spending too much time and energy reasoning things out. When dealing with people, these shortcuts can lead us to rely on stereotypes. In this case, inexperienced teachers haven't developed the skills needed to quickly evaluate a student's performance, so they fall back on our cultural biases, which is that females are less likely to do well in physics.”

Based on her years of research, Hofer has come up with a solution. She thinks “blind grading,” particularly in the math and science subjects, would help to ensure more fair grading.

" Tests can be tagged with a one-time ID, and the teacher would grade them without knowing which student they were from. Having the tests entered on a computer would make it easier to tag them and ensure that students' handwriting didn't subvert their test's anonymity.”

Read the full story.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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