Case Study – Gender Stereotypes in the Classroom

Note: The case study used for this assignment was based on an existing case within Gorski, P. and Pothini, S. (2103). Case Studies on Diversity and Social Justice Education (1st ed.). New York: NY: Routledge. The case study was modified slightly for the purposes of this assignment.

Professor Matthews, a first-year instructor at a public state university, walked into his mentor Dr. Williams’ classroom, excited to observe him teaching his science course. Mr. Matthews had a lot of respect for Mr. Williams as an instructor and was looking forward to seeing effective classroom techniques in action. Mr. Williams, a 15-year teaching veteran, was well liked and respected by his students and colleagues. In fact, the College Dean recommended that Mr. Matthews observe Mr. Williams for an hour, honing in on how he engaged students and fostered high levels of participation. As the students filed in, Mr. Matthews found a desk in the back of the room and prepared to take notes.

As his students settled into their seats, Mr. Williams enthusiastically called out “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen! I want to remind you that the midterm exam is tomorrow.” Following a brief overview of the study materials in their text and class notes, Mr. Williams asked if the students wanted to play a review game. Of course, the adult students agreed, as they knew Mr. Williams always offered something exciting and engaging for students.

“First, we need to split ourselves into two (2) teams”, Mr. Williams explained before asking the class how they wanted to divide themselves. As the students discussed options, Mr. Williams walked to the back of the room and said to Mr. Matthews, “Adult learners like having a certain level of control over their learning.”

Several students suggested that they form teams by gender. This “males versus females” suggestion elicited enthusiastic support from many of the classmates. Mr. Williams sent the men to one side of the classroom and the woman to the other side of the classroom, and proceeded to ask each team a question while keeping count of correct responses. 

After ten (10) minutes the team of women was far ahead of the team of men, leading a couple of men to joke that they are “letting the women win so that they don’t get mad.” A couple of women responded by reminding their male counterparts that the women won the previous two (2) games as well. Following several minutes of the teams mocking each other, Mr. Williams attempted to refocus the class by jokingly saying, “Alright guys, listen up. If you don’t stop fighting, I’m going to prepare a new seating arrangement that will alternate male and female students, which clearly would make you unhappy and you would feel like children rather than adults. Let’s focus!” Both teams refocused on the game.

After class, as students left the room, Mr. Matthews heard several male and female students laughing and making disparaging remarks to one another, arguing about which gender was most intelligent and debating society’s reflection on men versus women’s rights and privileges. Mr. Williams approached Mr. Matthews and warmly said “That’s how it’s done! The students love the competition and don’t even realize how much science they’re learning in the process.”

He then looked down at Mr. Matthews’ notes, and noticed that he had written and circled “gender stereotypes” in his notebook. “Whoa! That’s what you are focusing on?” Mr. Williams asked, sounding offended. “Males versus females: that’s what the students love to do. It’s an exciting way to facilitate the learning process.” He then counseled Mr. Matthews, “You’re still new at this and will learn soon enough that as long as the students are engaged and learning, that other stuff doesn’t matter.”

With that, Mr. Williams walked back to his desk as Mr. Matthews sat speechless, wondering whether he had been too sensitive. 

From the case study, write a three to five (3-5) page paper in which you:

1. Expand on at least two (2) of the dynamics that Mr. Matthews observed while sitting in on Mr. Williams’ class that might have raised his concerns about the use of gender stereotypes.

2. Take a position on whether Mr. Matthew’s concerns about the use of gender stereotypes were founded. Provide a rationale for your position.

3. Explain the main ways in which you feel transgender students and / or students who do not identify with a gender would be impacted by the “male versus female” activities that often take place in this classroom.

4. Suggest at least one (1) other option Mr. Williams could use for splitting the students into teams.

5. Give your own constructive feedback to Mr. Williams regarding his roles as an instructor to his students and a mentor to Mr. Matthews.

6. Use at least four (4) quality peer-reviewed academic resources written within the past five (5) years. Note: Wikipedia and other similar websites do not qualify as academic resources. 

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