Still waters run deep



This study aims to compare girls' performance with that of their boy peers, in a special program called a “research class.” Eighteen eleventh-grade students who excelled in math and science volunteered for a special research class in biology. The program consisted of three supplemental hours of biology per week at school, plus one full day per week at a research institute. At the institute the students were required to conduct individual research projects under the guidance of a scientist as well as the supervision of their biology teacher. The data about the participating students was collected through qualitative methods. Nonparticipant observations were conducted, primarily in the classroom and less frequently at the research institute, over a long period of time. These observations yielded information regarding each gender's quality of work. Following these observations, all of the participating adults and students were interviewed, and questionnaires were completed by the students. The main findings of the study indicated that the boys were significantly more active in classroom discussions than were the girls. This observation was reconfirmed by an analysis of verbal interventions in classroom discussions. However, in both the teacher's evaluation and the students' self-evaluation of their achievements, the girls' ratings were at least as high as the boys, with an average of 9 on a scale of 10. Moreover, the scientists indicated in their evaluations that the girls exhibited ability, intellectual curiosity, and a sense of responsibility, and were definately as able as were the boys. In other words, the vociferous monopoly of the boys during classroom discussion turns out to be relatively insignificant when examining the more covert qualities of the participating male and female students.