Teachers’ Pets: Do Undergraduate Instructors Treat Female and Male Students Differently?

Catherine Le

The impact that teachers have is invaluable due to their power to shape futures and develop minds, and the Undergraduate Learning Assistants (LAs) at UCLA are no different. They undergo extensive training to teach their peers alongside graduate student TAs, and with so much weight on their shoulders, they must be well-equipped to treat all students equitably, right?

After analyzing video footage from LA/student interactions in lower-division STEM courses, educational strategies utilized by instructors like wait time, interruptions, and praise were evaluated to recognize the presence and magnitude of a gender and power asymmetry in classrooms. The study revealed that there is a significant difference between how the genders interact, and the discovery of these results show that instructors possess the ability to not only expose their students to, but unfortunately also normalize the social realities of gendered behavior. Therefore, recognizing the existence of a gender gap and unequal power dynamic between instructor and student could help future educators make the program and its goals to encourage interest and retention in STEM more achievable.

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