Gender Bias in High School History

I tried an experiment in my high school World and US History classes that was inspired by Dr. Bob Bain, the highly esteemed professor from the University of Michigan. I have seen Dr. Bain speak several times and was intrigued with an experiment which roughly prompts students with: an alien from another galaxy sits next to you at Starbucks, he/she turns to you and says tell me about the history of your planet.

Since I teach high school sophomores (World History) and juniors (United States History), I couched this approached a little differently because I thought an hour-long writing assignment would be alienating. On the first day of school, I asked my students to draw a map of the World or United States from their memory. On the second day of school, I asked my students to list the Top 10 most important events in World or US History. Interestingly, this resulted in 66 events in WH and 65 events in USH. There were no significant differences between classes.

On the third day of school, I tell students that because they exceeded my expectations with the previous assignment I am doubling what I expect from them. I ask students to write down the Top 20 most important people in World or US History. This causes frenzied discussion, as many students struggle to come up with 20 names. I give my students 10 minutes for this task (2 minutes per name). After they are done with their list, I ask them to count up how many men are on the list and compare it to how many women are on the list.

Image result for gender bias

On average, students in each class period listed 13 men and three women. This generated a nice discussion on the role of gender bias in History. I let my students know that they have a lot of freedom to do inquiry projects and independent investigations in this class, they need to pick the stories they tell carefully. They are responsible for writing history for the next generation. Do they want to continue to under-represent women in high school textbooks?

A 1984 study by M.K Tetrealt of US history textbooks revealed that the text allotted to references to women added up to less than one page. A closer look at another book showed that in more than 1,000 pages, there were four illustrations of men for every one of a woman and that less than three percent of the text was about women (Gospe, 2015). As California adopts new textbooks in 2018, I wonder how much these stats have changed?

Sharing Blended Learning Outcomes

After attending Jay Sorenson‘s Station Rotation presentation yesterday at CUE Rockstar Minarets, I was inspired to take another look at my data from my first year blending in a 1:1 classroom. This post was originally published by my school district in 2013 but has since disappeared from their website. I’m re-posting to help me reflect on which learning variables I should collect data on next year as I continue to shift towards personalized learning and mastery grading.

As I continue to evolve as a blended learning educator, I decided to try and measure some of the effects of blended learning with my students. In a previous post, I documented how incorporating blended learning assignments into my traditional classroom raised my course passage rate by 50%. In this piece, I compare student performance along two, 10-week periods. The first was predominantly blended, or 1:1 iPad-based instruction, the second was predominately textbook-centric, or traditional paper and pencil-based instruction.

Armed with a proliferation of digital instructional resources, high-speed internet and inexpensive devices, many educators are combining online instruction with regular classroom instruction to improve students’ learning experiences. Staker and Horn (2011) classify blended learning as a formal education program where students learn, at least in part, through online delivery of content and instruction. Students have some level of control over time, place, path, and/or pace of instruction. Part or all of the instruction is delivered away from home in a supervised, brick-and-mortar location. This blending of online and face-to-face instruction is expected to be standard practice in the future (Murphy, Snow, Mislevy, et al., 2014). The purpose of this article is to inspire conversation as to how educators can evaluate whether or not blended learning actually improves student outcomes in their classrooms.  What variables should be examined? Can quasi-experimental studies be set up as individual action research projects without disrupting business as usual in the classroom?

It was in this spirit, that I compared my blended classroom to my traditional classroom along four factors: (a) classwork completion; (b) homework completion; (c) assessment scores; and (d) course averages. Five random samples of classwork, homework, and assessments were analyzed for each 10-week period.

Table 1 (N=127) Blended Classroom Traditional Classroom
Classwork Completion Percentage 0.77 0.70
Homework Completion Percentage 0.71 0.63
Assessment Means 50.355 52.565
Course Averages 64.85 67.42

Students in this sample completed more of the blended classwork assignments and more of the blended homework assignments. Assessment scores were similar, however, traditional instruction netted slightly higher means. Course averages were also similar, yet traditional classroom instruction had a slightly larger mean. I am not sure what this finding of higher engagement and participation, yet lower achievement signifies, but I will spend time reflecting on it.

Traditional Learning

The purpose of this post was to provide educators switching from the traditional classroom role to a blended role with some data points for comparing their experiences. These results may not be as valid as those from a large-scale study, however, as more 1:1 educators compare their student outcomes, we will learn what outcomes to expect and gather valuable context to evaluate which practices are the most effective. In order to do that, we need front-line teachers to document their practices, collect data, and disseminate it.

Teaching in a 1:1 environment was novel, challenging, and frustrating at times, but best of all it was fun.  My students loved using technology and I enjoyed experimenting with new tools. Students read more, wrote more, viewed more historical content, and took more field trips to historical sites (even if they were virtual trips). In short, going 1:1 turned my classroom into a student-centered, active learning, historical thinking adventure. The entire experience rejuvenated my teaching. I can’t wait for the next school year. I suppose that’s a significant enough outcome for me.