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Teaching and Learning Online: Assessing the Effect of Gender Context on Active Learning. Bruce M. Wilson Kerstin Hamann Philip H. Pollock Department of Political Science University of Central Florida. Ideas. As a modality, the on-line discussion group…

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teaching and learning online assessing the effect of gender context on active learning

Teaching and Learning Online:Assessing the Effect of Gender Context on Active Learning

Bruce M. Wilson

Kerstin Hamann

Philip H. Pollock

Department of Political Science

University of Central Florida

ideas
Ideas
  • As a modality, the on-line discussion group…
  • …allows instructors to design small, interactive forums, even in large course settings.
  • …holds the promise of “democratizing” student interaction, allowing marginalized groups to become involved in discussions of course content.
questions
Questions
  • Students may be required to post messages to an on-line discussion group. But how much interaction takes place in these settings?
  • Does the gender composition of the on-line discussion group affect student behavior within the group? If so, how?
gender based rhetorical styles
Gender-based rhetorical styles
  • The democratization claim
    • Social decontextualization
    • Neutralization of social status cues: appearance, social status, accent, etc.
  • The counter-claim
    • Male control / female marginalization transferred unchanged from face-to-face to on-line context
    • Computers bring “familiar baggage to the new frontier” (Herring 1994)
early studies
Early studies
  • Raised doubts about democratization claim
  • Found male style: independent assertions, self-promotion, authoritative orientation
  • Versus female style: attenuated assertions, apologies, personal orientation
  • Early work based on uncontrolled field observations of small numbers of subjects
experimental studies 2 main findings
Experimental studies: 2 main findings
  • 1. Male dominant pattern in face-to-face communication greatly reduced in computer-mediated settings.
    • For example, Bhappu et al. (1997)
  • 2. Gender composition of group has large effect on use of gender stereotypic styles.
    • For example, Postmes and Spears (2002)
natural field research
Natural field research
  • Some evidence that gender-specific styles persist in on-line settings
    • Wolfe’s (1999) study of gender-balance groups
  • In terms of the level of participation, women achieve parity with men in on-line discussions
    • Wolfe (2000), Clawson & Choate (1999), Oxley et al. (2003), Pollock & Wilson (2002), Hamann et al. (2001), Wilson et al. (2002).
current study
Current study
  • Long-term goal: Identify type of on-line communication that best enhances student-student interaction.
  • Analyzed student postings to 50 discussion groups in 3 different upper-level comparative politics courses.
    • 1,908 messages containing 14,442 statements made by 453 students (164 males, 289 females).
coding and design
Coding and Design
  • Coding protocol based on Henri (1992)
    • Each statement coded for dependency (independent, direct, indirect), evaluative content (evaluative or cognitive), and depth (surface or in-depth).
  • Analyzed gender differences overall and in groups having different proportions of males and females.
findings
Findings
  • Student messages tended to be independent, not ‘interactive’ (direct or indirect responses to others).
    • Contrary to expectations, women were more likely than men to make independent statements.
  • Messages were more likely to be cognitive than evaluative.
  • Students eschewed social comments or ‘meta statements’ about what they learned.
findings13
Findings
  • Females in all-female groups did not talk to each other very much
    • They wrote relatively short messages containing mostly independent statements
  • In groups more heavily populated with males, female behavior was different
    • Women wrote longer messages containing a larger proportion of dependent statements
how much inter gender communication takes place
How much inter-gender communication takes place?

% female responses male

% statements male

findings15
Findings
  • Baseline: Proportion of statements made by males.
    • This decreases as gender composition becomes more female.
  • In male-tilted and gender balanced groups, women made above-the-baseline responses to males.
  • In female-tilted and female-dominant groups, women made below-the-baseline responses to males.
conclusions
Conclusions
  • All students displayed a preference for independent statements.
  • Reliance on independent statements specified by gender context.
    • Gender balanced groups displayed more apparent interaction than did female-skewed groups.
  • Inter-gender interaction also apparently more robust in gender-balanced contexts.
next steps in the research
Next steps in the research
  • Link participation to satisfaction
    • Student evaluations
  • Link participation to outcomes
    • Broaden the analysis to include number of postings read by students (part of the critical thinking and peer-learning process)
    • Assess effect on course grades
disseminating the results
Disseminating the results
  • “Teaching and Learning Online: Assessing the Effect of Gender Context on Active Learning” with Philip H. Pollock and Kerstin Hamann, Journal of Political Science Education, 2005.
  • “Enhancing Active Learning: Designing Critical Thinking Exercises Using the Internet,” with Kerstin Hamann. Politics & Policy. 2003
  • “Evaluating the Impact of Internet Teaching: Preliminary Evidence from American National Government Classes,” with Philip H. Pollock. PS: Political Science and Politics. 2002
  • “The Best of Both Worlds?: Web-Enhanced or Traditional Instruction in American National Government,” with Hutch Pollock and Kerstin Hamann, The Political Chronicle. 2000