Sensitizing future teachers to psychological research on gender and STEM




What leads less women to pursue STEM careers? What does research find about differences in girls’ and boys’ educational trajectories? Students and faculty may have heard about gender bias, the leaky pipeline, gender stereotypes, or gender differences in the brain, but it is often difficult to grasp the underlying complexity of these topics. As social scientists in a technical university, we think that learning more closely about research in this field is helpful in developing a balanced and critical perspective. We have thus developed a course on gender issues in education and STEM for students in the teacher education program at ETH Zurich. In this paper, we first introduce some of the main issues in the context of gender and STEM, around which our course is designed. We then describe the pillars of our course. The course is interactive, with students presenting and critically discussing psychological and educational research. We walk students through the various controversies in the field: the nature-nurture question, gender differences vs. similarities, biases vs. interests, gender stereotypes and potential interventions. In a final assignment, students in small groups integrate several papers into a blog-post. Finally, we describe how students respond to our course, and discuss the challenges we as lecturers experience throughout.