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Gender-segregated science classrooms.

markey at IMSA.EDU markey at IMSA.EDU
Tue May 30 09:43:55 EST 1995

>The segregated classes supposedly focused on those types of group interactions,
>and the results after the first term of the programs said that the segregated
>classes worked better in teams than the coed classes, with individual members
>doing more equivalent amounts of work.

>Shelly Pracht
>(IMSA class of 1989, UIUC 1994)
>Baylor College of Medicine
>Molecular Virology graduate student


	Personally, I would recommend taking the particular example of the
Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy's gender segregated calculus-based
physics courses with a grain of salt.  I think that there were so many
differences between the all female section and the coed section that it is
very difficult to tell what chnages were important.  For instance, the 
coed section was taught at 7:30-8:20AM with the students sitting in desks
in rows.  It is my understanding that Dr. Workman attempted to teach that
section as he had taught the course in previous years.  The all female 
section was taught in the afternoon, with the students sitting around tables
and working in groups.  Also there were more demonstrations in the all female
	I did not take physics that semester, however, I was in one of the coed
sections the following semester.  In our section, we used some of the
techniques that had been used in the all females section in the previous
semester.  For example, we sat around tables and worked in groups.  Generally,
the approach was:  Dr. Workman gives a problem.  Each person works on it
individually.  Then the people at a table compare answers.  If someone knows
how to do it, they show the people who don't.  At the very least, the table
members deliberate and decide what they think is the closest to being correct,
which they then check with Dr. Workman.
	Generally, I think I would interpret this experiment not as indicating
that science courses ought to be gender segregated, but as (yet another)
reminder that there are different learning styles.  I think that males and
females are socialized in ways that lead them to utilize different skills in
learning new information.  I think that would be best is to change the way that
we teach children (considerably younger than highschool) so that they are not
limited in their ablitity to learn by arbitrary social rules of behavior.
At the very least, we should refrain from catering our educational system to
the learning techniques characteristic of male students (in general). I do not
think that gender segregated courses do anyone much good in the long run.  I
think that American society as a whole is improving in terms of gender
equality, but for now, there will still be times whena situation is not fair at
all.  I don't think that being educated in a gender segegrated environment
properly prepares a person for dealing with that type of difficult situation.

Mia K. Markey
(IMSA '94)
biochemistry and molecular biology
Boston Univ.          
Boston, MA
mkm at bu.edu

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