Far from demonstrating that females pursuing undegraduate majors in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines are up to the challenge of competing equally with their male counterparts, Dasgupta's study indicates that female students learn best when placed in female-majority small groups, even if the majority of students in the class are male.
Dasgupta tracked 120 undergraduates and her data suggest that professors need to pay more attention to the composition of small groups that are common for team projects and group learning in STEM fields. She notes:
The important thing we found in this experiment is that even in learning
environments where women are a tiny minority, if we can create work
teams or learning teams, basically small groups with a high percentage
of women, those promote women's success by reducing worry and
anxiety, increasing women willingness to speak up and "lean in," to
use Facebook CEO Cheryl Sandberg's phrase. This allows women to
speak up and not worry what others think, increases confidence about
their ability and ultimately lets them aspire to a career in these fields.
Now, isn't that something? After all those decades of "feminizing" the nation's K-12 schools so that female graduates would feel competent in competing with their male counterparts in traditionally-male dominated subjects, the outcome of all those interventions is that females still aren't ready to compete on an equal plane with their male counterparts by the time they enter college and undertake traditionally-male disciplines, like STEM.
It couldn't possibly be that females really are different than males in how they approach learning, could it? Might single-sex education provide some females a better approach to prepare them to compete on a level academic field with males?
Dasgupta's study is scheduld to appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Let the discussion begin...
To read about Dasgupta's study, click on the following link: