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Teaching Science and Engineering Courses in Ways that Work for Female (and Male) Students

I'm currently working on a paper that describes research based tips for improving science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teaching at the college level. Since this is FairerScience we are, of course, focusing on things that will "reduce the gaps while all gain". The following is a list of tips I've come up with. Other ideas will be most welcome, especially if they come with references to research that supports them. The first respondents (with references) will get some of my home made, fabulous chocolate chip cookies. So here is what we have so far:

I. Integrate applications into your teaching of fundamental concepts. However check to see if the applications are familiar to and of interest to your students.

II. Periodically stop talking and pause. Wait at least three seconds after asking a question before calling on someone to answer.

III. Praise but carefully. Praise students as individuals not as representatives of their sex or race. Praise only when it is deserved and watch your language. What you see as a complement can be seen as an insult by others.

IV. Encourage student collaboration. If you teach programming, use pair programming assignments. If you use small groups, cluster women students in groups so the numbers of women and men in a group are approximately equal.

V. Check your classroom climate. Decide what you want your classroom to be like in terms of such areas as student/professor and student/student respect, student participation and student comfort level. Write down your expectations and check periodically to see what the climate actually is.

VI. Provide research experiences for undergraduates (REU).

VII. Work with others to provide undergraduates with more opportunities to transfer into engineering.


Take responsibility for the gender/racial climate in your classroom/lab/computer lab. Don't let sexist/racist/homophobic comments or jokes go by unremarked. Make it clear that you expect a climate of respect in your classroom. If your students work in a lab or computer lab unsupervised by you, drop in once in awhile unannounced to get a sense of the climate there. Racial and gender harassment can take place in these environments when the professor is not around. If you supervise graduate TAs, make sure they understand the university's rules about gender and racial harassment, and understand how to treat all students with respect.

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