A Study of the Impact of Sex and Gender upon the Perceptions and Responses of Science Teachers

Margaret Ann Spear
The study investigated the role that science teachers could play in depressing the aspirations and attainment of girls studying science. Particular attention was directed to teachers' opinions, beliefs, attitudes and expectations. It was hypothesized that teachers (a) perceive science to be masculine, (b) perceive differences between boys and girls which could affect science achievement, (c) hold higher expectations for boys than for girls, (d) assess the work, cognitive and affective
more » ... of boys to be superior to those of girls. The hypotheses were tested using attitude and rating scales, and a marking exercise. A total of 766 science teachers were involved in the study. In the marking exercise, 339 science teachers evaluated samples of pupils' work. The work Samples and their authors were rated on a number of variables. However, pupil sex was varied so that the same piece of work was presented to half of the teachers as being the work of a girl and to the remaining teachers as being the work of a boy. Work attributed to a boy was generally rated higher for scientific accuracy and understanding of principles than identical work attributed to a girl. Furthermore, boys were judged to have significantly more aptitude for science, more favourable attitudes towards science, greater interest in science, and to be more suitable for undertaking further physical science courses. Findings from the whole study indicate that teachers do (a) perceive science to be masculine, (b) perceive differences between the interests, aptitudes and future roles of girls and boys, (c) hold sex differentiated expectations, (d) differentially value the work and personal characteristics of boys and girls. In conclusion, the beliefs and expectations of some science teachers probably adversely affect girls' attitudes towards science and impede their academic progress. It is recommended that teacher education must include material that enables teachers to understand and eliminate sexism in their teaching.
doi:10.21954/ou.ro.0000f939 fatcat:qso7lgv4hzeldjvghqjhycfkri