Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Cold Calling Hurts Women

Chronicle of Higher Education, How Calling on Random Students Could Hurt Women:

When professors pose a question in class, they often find that the same few students raise their hands — while everyone else avoids eye contact. To avoid this dynamic, some instructors simply call on random students.

They should think twice, says Judith E. Larkin. No one likes being put on the spot, says Larkin, a professor emerita of psychology at Canisius College. But the experience, her research shows, is particularly negative for women.

Larkin has studied the gender dynamics of public performance for years. Her interest was piqued in the late 1990s when she noticed there weren’t many female contestants on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Larkin later read that the show struggled to book them.

Larkin thought that her discipline, psychology, could help explain this phenomenon. So she designed an experiment, asking male and female students if they would submit their names to go on the show.

Women were less likely to volunteer, Larkin said, because they “would be much more ashamed than men would be if they couldn’t answer the question.” She and her frequent collaborator Harvey A. Pines think that is because women fear confirming the stereotype that they are not as competent as men. On the other hand, Larkin said, “for men, it’s the equivalent of, Eh, no big deal.”

Larkin and Pines continued to pull on this thread in their scholarship. They looked at a host of situations in which someone’s intellect would be on public display — including the classroom — and found the same sorts of differences by gender.

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And here I'd been told that there was no differences between men and women, and to think otherwise was misogynist. Or was it that women were just as capable and competent as men? Or was it that gender stereotypes are just a social construct? Huh.

Posted by: ruralcounsel | Aug 28, 2019 4:01:43 AM

Does anyone write about anything besides race and gender any more?

Posted by: Mike Livingston | Aug 28, 2019 4:10:15 AM

We should recognize differences between the sexes? I thought the aren't any. Are courts going to be required to ask fewer questions of women due to their innate (huh?) differences?

Posted by: Anonymous | Aug 28, 2019 7:10:35 AM

Isn't one of the purposes of education to take people out of their comfort zones?

Posted by: Scott Fruehwald | Aug 28, 2019 9:06:37 AM

So this suggests that women might be more uncomfortable being called on. At least the summary we read here does not suggest that women are hurt by the practice. One might consider the following: when calling on a student, make sure that the practice is designed to be inclusive and to foster learning, not to embarrass the student. Second, how relevant is this for law school? A successful lawyer can learn not to feel embarrassed. Maybe if women (or anyone else who feels uncomfortable) being called on, are called on and learn that the experience, even if uncomfortable at first, is not so bad, this can be a learning experience that can help in a career. Indeed, I wonder whether this gender difference actually suggests that it is more important than ever to call on women (or those who don't raise their hands).

Posted by: Victor Thuronyi | Aug 28, 2019 9:41:55 AM

No, although soft bigotry of low expectations sure could. Just explain your class is preparing them to stand up when it matters. Like many women of my local Republican committee do :)

Posted by: Anand Desai | Aug 30, 2019 8:21:57 PM