A Student Comment on Gender, Bias, and the Socratic Method

A former undergraduate student of mine read my Poker Chips in the Classroom post and wrote to share her thoughts.

This weekend I was in [city Q] visiting [prestigious law school X]… [and] while I was there over the weekend, I sat in on some law classes. I noticed two things, one of which your chips would be great at solving. First, the men were far more likely to raise their hands and volunteer answers during class. The women rarely raised their hands and seldom in a two-hour class was a female the first to raise her hand. (More concerning, the topic was Roe v Wade, so you would think they would want to share their opinions more). Secondly, the professor (I hope unintentionally) on two occasions immediately undermined the opinion/confidence of the women upon who he called for an answer before they even had an opportunity to respond. (ie: [Female student Z], what do you think of the argument? C’mon its really simple, just try to give it your best shot.) Obviously your chips would not solve the second issue, but I believe they would definitely make those who may not feel as confident volunteering their opinions more likely to do so.  The professor I sat in on used the Socratic method, but I wonder how he chose who to call on. He was looking at a seating chart on his desk each time he picked a name – I wonder if he tracks who he calls on or just tries to make it “random” on his own (subject to the same flaws you identify in your blog). I did not see him using any method of tracking whom he called on so I presume it is the latter. Anyways, with your method there can never be any issue of favoritism or bias.  I guess this is a long way to say that I loved the chip system and I wish it were more widely used. I think you should promote it or do some analysis of its classroom impact. I would love to see it catch on more widely and can certainly see some very strong arguments in favor of its implementation.


About Will H. Moore

I am a political science professor who also contributes to Political Violence @ a Glance and sometimes to Mobilizing Ideas . Twitter: @WilHMoo
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