The underrepresentation of girls in science and science-related fields
has been seen primarily as a "girl problem" (Campbell, 1993, p. 3). That is
to say, educational systems have blamed women for the difficulties they
had with science. Experts have even gone so far as to speculate that women
are genetically encoded for scientific incompetence! Because we have
the problem this way, most of our solutions have been designed to make
"more compatible" with science (Campbell, 1993) and have largely ignored
many environmental factors that affect the way women view themselves and
the way their personalities develop. Before we can do anything, we must
realize that young women face many obstacles, both inside and outside the
classroom, that may discourage them from excelling in science: These
stereotyping, low self-esteem, and poor preparation.
Generally speaking, to overcome these barriers we must combat gender
stereotypes and stereotypes about science; build young women's self-esteem
defeat "science phobia;" and continue to work for curriculum reform. My
philosophy of science education accomplishes the first two of these goals
effectively teaches science to both boys and girls. Science is a discipline
of ideas, not just facts. Therefore, courses should be designed to
independent thinking, problem solving, and scientific inquiry. In addition,
teachers must strive to make science more "girl-friendly" by emphasizing
collaboration over competition; valuing teamwork; and incorporating
presentations, essay exams, and written reports into the science
Note that these changes not only build on the communication and
skills for which girls have traditionally been known but also more fully
prepare students for college science courses.
Perhaps the following quote from a former student best expresses how
Mrs. Samuels somehow manages to raise self-esteem, inspire students and
fear, and provide a relaxed, happy environment without sacrificing
high standards. . . . I remember wanting to study hard because I was
happy in the course, not because I was afraid.
If parents and teachers consistently implement these suggestions, students
will recognize that science can be fun and doesn't have to be intimidating.
The principles discussed here help eradicate students' fear of science and
help prove to young women, and young men, that they can do science.
For the best results, we need the cooperation of students, parents,
school systems, communities, and teachers. Students must be willing to put
the time and effort necessary to succeed. Parents must provide positive
reinforcement and express a belief in the students' ability to understand
complicated ideas. The school system and community must work to provide a
gender-neutral curriculum. Last, the teacher must strive to adapt his or
teaching style to the needs of the students.
Linda S. Samuels
Succeed in Science!
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