Equitable Classroom Practices Institute

Best Practices for Achieving Gender Equity in the Classroom

The Equitable Classroom Practices Institute (ECPI), was a summer institute where teacher participants from 11 Houston area schools viewed videotapes, reviewed empirical studies, and participated in activities to promote awareness and strategies for positive socialization of students. The resources on this page were developed as a result of this institute.

Classroom Practices

  • Student/Teacher Interaction
  • Lesson Planning/Classroom Management
  • Curriculum Content


  • Equitable Practices Slideshow
  • Online Resources
  • Print Resources

Classroom Practices

After completing ECPI, teachers developed implementation plans that consist of the following strategies that cultivate gender equity in classrooms. For the most part, instructional strategies are based on the works of Anderson, Brooks, and Reavis, 1998; and Morrow, 1993; and Sadker & Sadker, 1994. The following practices are divided into the three main areas of gender bias, Sadker, 1994 and are proven best practices for all students.

Student/Teacher Interaction

  • Call on girls as often as you do boys, and be sure to ask the girls some of the higher- level cognitive questions. Research shows that both male and female teachers initiate more interaction with boys, and on higher cognitive levels.
  • Have high expectations of both male and female students. Do not encourage learned helplessness by over-nurturing the girls.
  • Encourage girls to be active learners by using manipulatives and providing hands-on learning experiences.
  • Use gender-free language in classroom discourse.
  • Use quality, precise feedback to girls' as well as boys' answers - not just a nod or a "good."
  • Keep an interaction journal. Keep tract of the quantity and quality of interactions with students.
  • Make eye contact with all students and call them by name.
  • Provide adequate wait time, perhaps 3 or 5 seconds, before calling on a student to answer the question. Females often wait until they have formulated an answer before they raise their hands; boys often raise their hands immediately and then formulate an answer.
  • Do not interrupt girls or let other students do so.
  • Refrain from recruiting students to perform classroom "chores" based on traditional gender roles. Do not ask only boys to assist in carrying boxes and girls to clean the bookshelves.
  • Be a model of non-bias behavior for not only your classroom, but also the entire school.

Lesson Planning/Classroom Management

  • Mentally divide your room into quadrants. If students in all quadrants do not participate, you can say, "Let's hear from someone in the back right corner."
  • Balance cooperative and competitive activities. Research shows that most girls learn more readily in cooperative situations.
  • Establish rules for participation and rotate jobs within each group.
  • Give girls an equal amount of assistance and feedback. Boys usually receive more help and praise that builds self-esteem.
  • Ask students to discuss concepts orally. This helps students to learn the vocabulary of the subject.
  • Encourage all students to take additional math and science courses. Adult encouragement proves to be a major factor in students' decision-making processes.
  • Encourage girls to participate in extracurricular math and science activities. Some schools have organized Girls' Clubs where female students interact with mentors in the fields of math, science, technology, and engineering.
  • Sponsor a Girls' Technology Club. Plan activities that use technology in real life scenarios. (Do the same for math and science.)
  • Provide opportunities for female students to teach lessons or tutor younger students or even parents in math, science, and technology. As a teacher, you will ascertain that the girls really know the content and the opportunity to verbalize such fosters higher self-esteem.
  • Stress safety precautions instead of dangers. Girls will sometimes be reluctant to participate in lab activities if they seem too dangerous.
  • Insist that girls as well as boys learn to set up and use all electronic equipment: VCR's, video and digital cameras, printers, scanners, DVD players, etc…
  • Address inappropriate behavior with a fair and respectful attitude, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic class of students. Video tape yourself to monitor your actions.
  • Use computer and lab partners. Again, most girls work better in cooperative groups or teams.
  • Introduce lessons with an overview. Females learn more readily from the "big picture" rather than from disconnected details.
  • Provide female role models. Research shows that girls need to see females in certain professions or career choices in order to visualize themselves in the same or similar roles; whereas boys need only to hear about certain roles to imagine them selves taking place in those same roles.
  • Provide learning experiences for girls to develop spatial visualization skills.
  • Use writing to help students express and clarify their feelings and thoughts (e.g., math autobiographies, science journals).
  • Create an attractive classroom environment. Research shows that girls learn better in an aesthetically pleasing environment.
  • To appeal to students with various learning styles, encourage students to solve problems by multiple methods.

Curriculum Content

  • Use gender inclusive language.
  • Avoid generalizations that stereotype women in certain roles.
  • Encourage a "can do" attitude; teach students to give themselves credit. Females tend to credit their achievements to luck rather than to their ability.
  • Analyze curricular materials for bias and supplement as needed.
  • Take girls to an Expanding Your Horizons conference in your area. These conferences sponsored by AAUW, provide female students with access to workshops led by female professionals in the areas of math, science, technology, and engineering.
  • Use toys to teach concepts in math and science. Traditionally, toys that cultivate understanding of math and science concepts are typically marketed as "boy's toys."
  • Set aside an area in the classroom to serve as a resource center that includes materials in career opportunities in math, science, technology, and engineering.
  • Diversify classroom resources to include females and diverse races.
  • Celebrate Women's History Month.
  • Assign biographical essays to students. Focus on male and female inventors and females in other areas of math, science, and technology.
  • Acknowledge the contributions of both men and women to mathematics and science via posters, reports, examples, story problems, etc.
  • Provide current events representative of women and other minorities with varying economic, legal, and social concerns.
  • Invite quest speakers of both genders to speak to students.
  • Incorporate students' comments into lectures. This technique validates the students' understanding of concepts.
  • Help female students value them selves. Girls often have a severe drop in self -esteem during the middle school years. Women teachers need to model a healthy self-respect and male teachers need to have respect for both girl students and female colleagues.

Equity Resources

ECPI Slide Show
This is slide show of activities which may be used in a Best Practices Teacher Inservice. You will need Adobe Acrobat's free reader to view the slide show on any computer. You can download the free software here.


On-Line Resources

  • American Association of University Women (AAUW)
    The American Association of University Women is a national organization that promotes education and equity for all women and girls.
  • Myra Sadker Advocates
    Myra Sadker Advocates is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting equity in and beyond schools. By working to eliminate gender bias, the advocacy enhances the academic, psychological, economic and physical potential of America's children. The advocates support research, training and special programs for teachers, parents, children and all those whose work and interest touch the lives of children.
  • National Women's History Project
    The National Women's History Project established National Women's History Month, in 1980, maintains the clearinghouse for U.S. women's history information and provides curricular materials on women's history. NWHP also conducts in-service training for schoolteachers and provides consulting services for publishers, media producers, and journalists.
  • Women's Educational Equity Act
    The national Women's Educational Equity Act (WEEA) Equity Resource Center works to improve educational, social, and economic outcomes for women and girls.
  • Lesson plans, one- page biographies, and activities for promoting equity in the classroom:
  • http://www.edc.org/WomensEquity/women/history.htm
    Lesson plans and links to biography sites

Print Resources

  • Anderson, Kathie; Rhonda Brooks, and Sr. Mollie Reavis, "Instructional Strategies" 1998.
  • Morrow, C. "Classroom and Cooperative Group Structures that Promote Gender Equity," presentation at the NCTM annual meeting, Seattle, WA, 1993.
  • Sadker, D. and Myra Sadker, Failing At Fairness: How Schools Cheat Girls, Touchstone, New York, N.Y., 1994.
  • Sadker, D. Gender Equity in the Classroom, 1997
  • Sanders, J. Lifting the Barriers, Jo Sanders Publications, Seattle, WA. 1994.

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Last Updated 04/06/04- Questions and comments concerning this page may be directed to Marty Daniel.