Brief description of the issue
As they do for physical space, boys tend to occupy the sound space, to make an intervention without having been invited to do so before or to interrupt someone else to express their point of view (Canopé, 2018). It is therefore tempting for the adult in charge to give the floor to a boy repetitively and energetically asking for it, to avoid manifestations of frustration, instead of letting a girl patiently raising her hand say what she wants to say (Canopé, 2018). It is indeed what is happening: teachers have approximately 44% of their interactions with girls and 56% with boys. They question boys more often and for a longer time, answer more often to their spontaneous questions, give them more complex directions and, when they perform well at school, encourage them more and criticize them more (Mosconi, 2004).
These differences of treatment from teachers reinforce gender stereotypes linked to male and female social roles. Girls and boys can perform certain behaviours as boys or as girls, as if this existing situation was the result of “natural” differences (Canopé, 2018).
How can we avoid reinforcing gender stereotypes with our interactions with students? Equal treatment as well as a reminder of this principle can help us avoid unequal habits we might have unconsciously (Canopé, 2018). Here are a few tips and activities to make sure boys and girls enjoy the same opportunities to speak in class and the same attention from you.
- Alternate turns to speak between boys and girls. Without necessarily inform students that you do intentionally alternate boys and girls when you invite one of them to answer or ask a question, try to keep this principle in mind when you ask questions in front of the classroom.
- Pick the name of the next person to speak. Write the name of each student on a ball, a card or any other object and put all these objects in a box or a basket. When you want to ask a question to a student, pick an object and ask the student who has his or her name written on it. Choose funny objects to make the process more interesting to students.
- Try to keep track of time during students’ interventions to make sure they have an equal amount of time to express themselves: as boys tend to speak for a longer time, invite them to answer in a limited time or to conclude their idea if they go on and on, and allow girls time to develop their idea or question them about it.
- Make sure everyone listens and respect someone who is already talking by paying special attention to interruption: as boys have a tendency to interrupt other more, teach your students to listen to their classmates and to avoid interrupting others.
CANOPÉ (2018). Repérer les stéréotypes et les préjugés dans le quotidien scolaire. https://www.reseau-canope.fr/fileadmin/user_upload/Projets/Plan_egalite_filles-garcons/OEFG_Reperer_stereotypes_prejuges_quotidien_scolaire.pdf
Mosconi, N. (2004). “Effets et limites de la mixité scolaire”, Travail, genre et sociétés, 1(11), 165-174. https://www.cairn.info/revue-travail-genre-et-societes-2004-1-page-165.htm?contenu=resume