Saturday, October 30, 2010

Women's Choices, Not Abilities, Keep Them out of Math-Intensive Fields (?)

The article below is just opinion. The plain fact is that advanced mathematics is HARD. You have to be very bright to do it at university level. And there are many more men in that super-bright range. That fact is mentioned below but glided over subsequently

The question of why women are so underrepresented in math-intensive fields is a controversial one. In 2005, Lawrence Summers, then president of Harvard University, set off a storm of controversy when he suggested it could be due partly to innate differences in ability; others have suggested discrimination or socialization is more to blame. Two psychological scientists have reviewed all of the evidence and concluded that the main factor is women's choices -- both freely made, such as that they'd rather study biology than math, and constrained, such as the fact that the difficult first years as a professor coincide with the time when many women are having children.

Psychological scientists Stephen Ceci and Wendy Williams of Cornell University set out to understand the differences between men and women in math-intensive fields such as physics, electrical engineering, computer science, economics, and chemistry. In the top 100 U.S. universities, only 9% to 16% of tenure-track positions in these kinds of fields are held by women.

But girls' grades in math from grade school through college are as good as or better than boys', and women and men earn comparable average scores on standardized math tests. However, twice as many men as women score in the top 1% on tests such as the SAT-M. Clearly, the picture is complex, Ceci and Williams decided. Their analysis and conclusions appear in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Williams and Ceci also reviewed research on sex discrimination and decided that it is no longer a major factor. In fact, one large-scale national study found that women are actually slightly more likely than men to be invited to interview for and to be offered tenure-track jobs in math-intensive STEM fields.

Instead, Williams and Ceci think the problem is that women actually choose not to go into math-heavy fields, or drop out once they have started. "When you look at surveys of adolescent boys and girls and you say to them, 'What do you want to be when you grow up,' you never see girls saying, 'I want to be a physicist or an engineer,'" Ceci says. That doesn't mean they're rejecting science, but they're more likely to want to be physicians or veterinarians.

And those preferences persist. Studies of college students find that women are more interested in organic and social fields, while men are more interested in systematizing things. And indeed, more than half of new medical doctors and biologists are women today -- and in veterinary medicine, women are more than 75% of new graduates.

Also, women drop out of mathematics-heavy careers paths. Almost half of undergraduate math majors in the U.S. are women. A smaller percentage of women go into graduate school in math, and in 2006, women earned 29.6% of math PhDs. Women are also more likely to drop out after they start a job as a professor, often because they are unable to balance childcare with the huge workload required to get tenure. Young male professors are more likely than their female counterparts to have a stay-at-home spouse or partner who takes care of children.

"You don't see nearly as many men with doctorates in physics saying, 'I won't apply for a tenure-track position because my partner wants to practice environmental law in Wyoming and I'm going to follow her there and help take care of the kids,'" Williams says. Fair or not, women are more likely to prioritize family needs. "I don't think we should try to persuade a woman who's going to be a physician, veterinarian, or biologist to instead be a computer scientist."

On the other hand, women shouldn't have to drop out because the tenure schedule conflicts with their fertility schedule. "Universities can and should do a lot more for women and for those men engaged in comparably-intensive caretaking," says Williams. Coming up with alternative schedules for parents of young children who are seeking tenure, for example, or finding other ways to ease the burden on parents or young children, could help women stay in academic careers -- and not only in math-intensive fields.

SOURCE. Journal article here.

British pupils make more effort with male teachers as they are seen as fairer

Pupils try harder for male teachers, according to an official study. They make more effort to please them, display greater self-esteem and are more likely to believe they are being treated fairly.

The findings are particularly significant as more than a quarter of primary schools do not have a single male teacher.
Sir knows best: Or at least that's the perception amongst school pupils. A study found that pupils make more effort for male teachers

With the number of male secondary school teachers also dwindling, it is feared that some youngsters could go throughout their entire education without experiencing the benefits of being taught by a man.

Researchers from Westminster University, the London School of Economics and the graduate business school INSEAD carried out an experiment involving 1,200 pupils aged 12-13 in 29 schools.

The study, commissioned by the Department for Education under Labour, was aimed at discovering what shaped youngsters’ effort, motivation and educational achievement.

Each pupil received £2 and was asked to buy up to ten questions, priced 20p each. The questions involved having to define the meaning of words. A correct answer doubled their money each time while an incorrect one forfeited 20p. Therefore, pupils who tried ten questions and got them all correct could earn £4.

In one group, marking was done anonymously by an external examiner. In the other, marking was done by the teacher in the classroom. There were nine male teachers and 18 female teachers in the study, which compared the number of questions bought across both groups and measured pupils’ perceptions of the grading and their willingness to make effort using questionnaires.

They found little overall difference in the number of questions purchased between both groups. But in the group where marking was done by the teacher, pupils bought significantly more questions when assessed by men. Children had a more ‘positive perception of the rewards’ of their effort despite the fact the males were not any more lenient.

Both boys and girls also showed greater confidence in their ability. Researchers said the findings were ‘new and significant’ as the effects were evident for every male teacher in the experiment.

They said the study ‘reveals that pupils taught by male teachers tend to have better perceptions of the importance of hard work, better perceptions of equalities of opportunities and higher self-esteem. ‘This experiment shows that male teachers may be beneficial for both male and female pupils, increasing motivation and effort.’

But the latest figures from the General Teaching Council show that only 123,361 of 502,562 registered teachers are men - just 25 per cent - with the vast majority working in secondary schools and further education. Two decades ago, men made up four in ten teachers. Staffrooms at 4,700 primaries – 28 per cent – are solely populated by women, 150 more than last year.

A recent study by Kent University found that women teachers are holding back boys by reprimanding them for typically male behaviour. They are reinforcing stereotypes that boys are ‘silly’ in class and refuse to ‘sit nicely like the girls’ and are more likely to indulge in pranks.

Researchers found that women teachers may also unwittingly perpetuate low expectations of boys and encourage girls to work harder by telling them they are clever.


Bid to lift choice for Australian university students

VICTORIA yesterday called for more student choice and new private providers in university education.

The Brumby government is urging the Gillard government to extend commonwealth undergraduate funding to TAFEs and other approved providers. In its Tertiary Education Access Plan to be announced today, the government says increased choice is needed to meet skill shortages and demand for more applied-focused degrees.

From 2012, the federal government is uncapping the supply of commonwealth-supported undergraduate places that universities can offer to increase participation. But Victoria wants commonwealth places to be allocated as an "entitlement" to eligible students to study at the provider of their choice.

Philip Clarke, head of tertiary education policy at Skills Victoria, said: "Victoria believes that shifting the focus of a demand-driven model to a student entitlement that can be met by a wider range of providers that have met national quality assurance and regulatory standards is a key element of growing higher education participation and completion."

The Victorian proposal comes as the Group of Eight sandstone universities lobby for significant student fee deregulation to drive choice, and also argue for commonwealth funding for TAFEs.

The Council of Private Higher Education welcomed the proposals but warned that commonwealth funding, plus the student contribution, did not cover the cost of delivery of many courses.

TAFE Directors Australia backed the proposal, noting that TAFE students doing degrees had to pay full fees without commonwealth supported places. But Universities Australia said that while it wasn't opposed in principle the commonwealth first needed to ensure new national quality regulators were in place.

RMIT vice-chancellor Margaret Gardner said universities were already well placed to deliver on the government's expansion targets and that a wide range of courses were available to students.

Kwong Lee Dow, former Melbourne University vice-chancellor and an adviser to the government on the plan, said he was disappointed the plan didn't include significant new spending measures beyond a previously announced $104 million for boosting tertiary access in rural areas.

The plan, worth $7m, details priorities for fostering school, TAFE and university partnerships to boost participation, and includes a government internship program for the disadvantaged.


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