Monday, October 23, 2017

Women in science ask fewer questions than men, according to new research

The explanation for the finding can only be speculative but let me add a different speculation to the ones below.  It seems to me that women are more conforming and less original than men.  So they have less to ask questions about

Stereotypes suggest that women love to talk, with some studies even finding that women say three times as much as men. But, new research from a team from the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, shows there is an exception to this rule: professional STEM events, which could be indicative of the wider problem of gender inequality in the field.

In new research published in PLOS ONE, the scientists studied question-asking behaviour at a large international conference. The conference, the 2015 International Congress for Conservation Biology, had a clear code of conduct for its 2000 attendees, which promoted equality and prohibited any form of discrimination.

The team observed 31 sessions across the four day conference, counting how many questions were asked and whether men or women were asking them. Accounting for the number of men and women in the audience, the findings show that male attendees asked 80% more questions than female attendees. The same pattern was also found in younger researchers, suggesting that it is not simply due to senior researchers, a large proportion of whom are men, asking all of the questions.

The researchers note that the recognised and ongoing issues of gender inequality in STEM fields and the wider world may be affecting female scientists' confidence and willingness to speak publically. Another interpretation may be that women are more assured in their expertise and do not feel the need to ask as many questions. However, asking questions at conferences is a visible activity that may increase the profile of the questioners. Therefore, regardless of the reason for the gender differences, the fact they exist may be another factor in favour of men in the competitive academic arena.

The study includes a reputational model that evaluates the factors that affect professional standing within the scientific community. While these include tangibles such as the number of articles published, and your academic position, they also include social reputation, which is more linked to appearance and public profile, and therefore potentially more prone to discrimination and stereotyping.

Dr Amy Hinsley, the paper's lead-author and a postdoctoral researcher at Oxford's Department of Zoology, said: "Previous research has shown that men are more likely to be invited to speak at conferences, which is likely to lead to them having a higher social reputation than their female peers. If women feel that they are low status, and have suffered discrimination and bias throughout their career then they may be less likely to participate in public discussions, which will in turn affect their scientific reputation. This negative feedback loop can affect women and men, but the evidence in this study suggests that women are affected more."

The researchers feel strongly that the study should be used as an opportunity to raise awareness of the issue and inspire discussion about why it is happening.

Dr Alison Johnston, senior author of the study, said: "We want our research to inspire conference organisers to encourage participation among all attendees. For example, questions over Twitter or other creative solutions could be tested. Session chairs could also be encouraged to pick participants that represent the gender in the audience. However, these patterns of behaviour we observed are only a symptom of the bigger issue. Addressing this alone will not solve the problem. We should continue to research and investigate the underlying causes, so we can implement actions that change the bigger picture for women in science. If we are to level the playing field for women in STEM the complex issue of gender inequality has to stay on the agenda."


How 'Teach for America,' Once Focused on Improving Education, Lost Its Way

It started out as a bold idea. It was going to take some of America's best and brightest, convince them to work as a teacher for just two years with some of the kids most in need of quality education and positive role models, and begin the process of radically changing the face of public education. Teach for America started out as a radical idea that tipped over the apple cart of traditional education -- but now? Now it's just another mouthpiece for leftist education rhetoric.

In remaking itself, TFA has subtly downgraded the principles that had won it allies across the spectrum. George W. Bush, Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn, Chris Christie, and Meg Whitman are a few of the Republicans who championed TFA. The group attracted such boldface names, and hundreds of millions of dollars from some of the largest American firms and philanthropies, because it stood for a simple but powerful idea: that teacher quality is the decisive factor in the educational outcomes produced by schools.
Judging by its interventions in recent debates, it isn’t all that clear that senior TFA executives still believe this.

These days, TFA’s voice on charters, accountability, and curricular rigor is decidedly muffled. Such education-reform essentials have been eclipsed in TFA’s discourse by immigration, policing, “queer” and transgender-identity issues, and other left-wing causes. TFA’s message seems to be that until numerous other social ills are cured—until immigration is less restricted, policing becomes more gentle, and poverty is eliminated—an excellent education will elude the poor. That was the status-quo defeatism TFA originally set out to challenge.


Today’s Teach for America is a different story. TFA’s leaders have now fully enlisted the organization in the culture war—to the detriment of its mission and the high-minded civic sensibility that used to animate its work.

This has been most visible in TFA’s response to the 2016 election. TFA chief executive Elisa Villanueva Beard, who took over from Kopp four years ago, doesn’t bother to mask either her progressivism or her revulsion at the new administration. When, a couple of weeks after the election, the president-elect announced his choice of Betsy DeVos to lead the Department of Education, Beard’s response was swift and cold.

A November 23 TFA news release began by decrying Trump’s “indisputably hostile and racially charged campaign” and called on DeVos to uphold “diversity, equity, and inclusiveness.” The statement went on to outline 11 TFA demands. Topping the litany was protection of the previous administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, which granted legal status to certain illegal immigrants brought into the country as children. Then came the identity-politics checklist: “SAFE classrooms for LGBTQ youth and teachers,” “safe classrooms for students and teachers with disabilities,” “safe classrooms for Muslim students and teachers,” “culturally responsive teaching,” and so on.

The whole thing is an interesting, yet depressing, read. Yet it was somewhat inevitable.

Any group dedicated to education will invariably find itself going down the same path unless the group actively works against it from the beginning. Leftists view education as their sole domain, and they want no one but fellow travelers stepping into their protected waters.

Teach for America failed in one important way. In created no requirement to maintain distance from the political education establishment. Instead, they have become allies of the teacher's unions that had mucked up the American educational system so badly. Leftists will invariably look at any group that touches their turf as land destined to be conquered.

That's what happened with Teach for America, and it'll happen with any other group that comes along.


How to get the most out of school reform

Blaise Joseph writes from Australia:

The focus of education policy must shift from 'more money' to instead investing in cost-effective, evidence-based practices. This is the purpose of the government's 'Gonski 2.0' review, but what does the evidence suggest schools should be investing in?
Give teachers fewer classes and more time outside the classroom.

Australian teachers typically spend an hour more teaching each day compared to the high-achieving countries. This means teachers have less time to plan, refine, and review their lessons, which have significant effects on teaching quality.

Early literacy and numeracy. Intervention to help underachieving students is most effective in early primary years. Teachers' education degrees do not equip them with the language knowledge necessary to effectively teach reading, and phonics instruction is not consistently taught well. Therefore, primary school teachers would be helped by attending professional development to improve reading instruction.

Classroom management training for teachers. Australia has high levels of classroom misbehaviour compared to the top-performing countries. Teacher education degrees do not consistently provide evidence-based practices to prepare teachers to handle misbehaviour. Teachers would benefit from attending professional development to learn and foster evidence-based classroom management techniques.

These investments would not have to cost the taxpayer more. For example, professional development in reading instruction and managing the classroom could be prioritised over less important training, and giving teachers fewer classes could be offset by increasing class sizes.

While theoretically smaller classes should facilitate better teaching, many recent studies indicate reducing class sizes has limited -- and inconsistent -- positive effects. Australia's class sizes are much smaller than several top-performing countries.

Technology is another common school investment not supported by evidence. Australian schools use technology significantly more than most of the OECD, but this hasn't stopped the decline in our literacy and numeracy results.

We must bring evidence back to the forefront of school spending; otherwise, the extra $23.5 billion of Gonski 2.0 funding will fail to improve student outcomes, letting down both students and taxpayers.


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