Cornell University Study Finds Women Are Less Likely to Participate in Active Learning Classrooms

A new study by researchers in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology in the College of Arts and Sciences at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, found that men were more likely to participate in active learning courses in science, technology, engineering and math, while women reported lower perceptions of their scientific abilities, were more aware of gender identity, and more likely to feel judged based on gender.

The “flipped classroom” approach of the active learning model incorporates in-class activities, group work, real-time surveys, and other tools to help students apply knowledge through deliberate practice during class time. Numerous studies documenting the benefits of active learning for many demographic groups have led to a shift in teaching that requires students to interact more in the classroom, particularly in STEM courses.

The researchers analyzed student behavior in an introductory biology course at Cornell. They observed students in this course over two semesters, recording students’ interactions with the instructor across seven categories, including unprompted comments and questions; prompted responses from individuals; prompted responses from groups; and student interaction with the instructor during small group activities.

These results suggest that “active learning in itself is not a panacea for STEM equity,” the researchers wrote. “Rather, to maximize the benefits of active learning pedagogy, instructors should make a concerted effort to use teaching strategies that are inclusive and encourage equitable participation by all students.”

The full study, “Gender Differences in Student Participation in an Active Learning Classroom,” was published on the website of the journal CBE–Life Sciences Education. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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