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Encouraging girls

Fletcher Rick fletcher at osprey.csrv.uidaho.edu
Thu Jun 16 00:15:58 EST 1994

Tara Reed (reedt at UCS.ORST.EDU) wrote:


: 	Two things struck me.  First, I rarely saw women doing the 
: primary work at the microscopes.  For the most part men did the finding 
: and focusing then stood aside so that the women could look 
: (sometimes the women just took notes on what their male counterparts 
: described).  The men weren't doing anything to actively discourage 
: participation by women, it just seemed to be an inherent part of the 
: dynamic.  Secondly, at one table the women outnumbered the men, and  
: the women in that group seemed much more engaged with the subject. They 
: actually scored higher on the overall class tests, which may not mean 
: anything but it did get me wondering.      
: 	I'm thinking about trying an all women's lab group in the fall.  
: I don't want to set up any antagonisms within the class as a whole or 
: detract from the material they're studying.  But I am concerned that 
: everyone have the opportunity to benefit equally from the lab experience.  
: Is this a common problem?  If it is, then are there some ways of dealing 
: with it that don't cause more problems than they solve?
: Tara Reed   reedt at bcc.orst.edu  
: Oregon State University   (my opinions are, of course, my own.)

Segregation is one approach, but it was tried before.  Can you think of 
ways to introduce assertiveness into the lab experience?  Motivate the 
women to demand their share of the full lab experience.  This seems to 
address the problem more than removing it.

I tend to see similar things in my physical chemistry lectures and labs.  
I'm amazed and disappointed to occasionally see an extremely bright woman 
allow a male lab partner to do things incorrectly.  I try my best to 
refuse to tolerate it.  I encourage the best women 
(privately) to speak out more and I use the approach that it would help 
me as the teacher to get more input from the brightest students.  I let 
them know that they will receive full support from me.  The first 
semester is slow, but a good discussion is usually evident by second 
T. Rick Fletcher
Assistant professor of chemistry  |  That's Idaho, not Iowa.    |  These
University of Idaho               |  Upper Left Hand Corner.    |  opinions
Moscow, ID 83844-2343             |  No, I don't grow potatoes. |  are mine.   

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