Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Study: sexist women teachers stunt learning of girl students

Why do so many girls in school suffer from "math anxiety"? The answer, according to a new University of Chicago study, is that they learn it from their female teachers. Apparently, these teachers do not pass math anxieties on to the boys in their classes. The LA Times writes:
"Teachers who are anxious about their own math abilities are translating some of that to their kids," said University of Chicago psychologist Sian Beilock, who led the study published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study is the first both to examine the math attitudes of teachers and to show that those feelings can spread to students and undermine their performance, said coauthor Susan C. Levine, also a psychologist at the University of Chicago.
In the study (PDF), Beilock and Levine assess the math anxiety of 2nd grade teachers and then studied how their students responded:
The math achievement of the students in these teachers' classrooms was also assessed. There was no relation between a teacher's math anxiety and her students' math achievement at the beginning of the school year. By school year's end, however, the more anxious teachers were about math, the more likely girls (but not boys) were to endorse the commonly held stereotype or belief that "boys are good at math and girls are good at reading" and the lower these girls' math achievement. Indeed, by the end of the school year, girls who endorsed this stereotype had significantly worse math achievement than girls who did not and than boys overall.
I do suspect that all students would better enjoy school and also learn more if teachers could learn to control their own anxieties.

PREVIOUSLY on the subject of education:
Black students, harassed for "acting white," get $150,000
Teaching self-esteem backfires
Education in Korea vs. the US: does "self-esteem" backfire?
LA pays teachers not to teach
What teachers learn in teacher's ed.
Obama promises to throw money at schools
How to get a job teaching in California even if you are illiterate

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