Reflection and Gender

03 Oct

A colleague of Erin’s from her previous institution recently told her that the number of male students failing the FYC portfolio assessment was disproportionate, and this person attributed the failure to under-developed reflections. Sarah and Erin pose the following hypothesis: There might be a gender bias in the portfolio review process. To investigate this hypothesis, we would draw from the methods of Haswell and Haswell and Johnson and Van Brackle. We would look into a few things: 1) the effect on the reader of seeing a gendered name on the portfolio as opposed to a gender-neutral name, 2) whether or not there are consistent characteristics in males’ reflections that differ from females’ reflections. To do this, I think we would need to code the reflections and develop the codes as we go along to describe what we’re finding rather than imposing categories on to the reflections. To isolate the reflection as a factor in the portfolio readers’ assessments, we would use the same portfolio with two different reflections. Thus, a male reader would read a portfolio with a male reflection, and then the same portfolio would go to a male reader with a female reflection; the process would be repeated with a female reader. We also think it would be helpful to interview the readers about their comments, and to code the comments and interview transcripts. Prior to the interviews, we would not want the readers to know that they were part of a study (like Johnson and Van Brackle’s method).


Posted by on October 3, 2013 in Uncategorized


3 responses to “Reflection and Gender

  1. jeffnaftzinger

    October 15, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    Comment: I think this is an interesting idea for a study. I’ve never really thought about how gender could play a roll in portfolio grading, but (anecdotally) I think I can imagine males being worse at reflecting than females.

    Question: I like the idea of keeping the same portfolio and using two different reflections, but don’t you think that could be a little problematic? It might be apparent to the readers if they notice something like changes in voice or something like that. Or it could be that the reflections end up being not as good, because they’re not true reflections, and then that throws off the whole study.

    Suggestion: Maybe look into—or at least account for—how the gender of the reader plays into their assessment of the portfolio (like in Haswell and Haswell).

  2. andrewdavidburgess

    October 15, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    Comment: I also had not considered gender in portfolio grading. But, from my own experience, I agree with Jeff that female students tend to not only be better at reflecting, but also at visually constructing a cohesive and user-friendly electronic portfolio.

    Question: I’m interested in your methods, but I’m wondering if it is necessary to have a male reader read a male reflection… Might you consider using a wider range of readers and variables?

    Suggestion: I guess this is the same as my question, but I’d like to see a wider range of possible reader/reflection combinations.

  3. jacobwcraig

    October 20, 2013 at 1:32 am

    I agree with everyone else. Susan Delagrange has some work in visual rhetoric where she argues that compiling images and visually arranging those images are distinctly feminist kinds of composing. I could imagine basing an eportfolio study on those ideas, because a lot about doing eportfolios is based on that kind of composing. But less in terms of gender and more in terms of certain kinds of intellectual baggage, I wonder if people who have ideas intellectually congruent with feminist ideas are more predisposed to do eportfolios in the ways that we want to see them. I think that I’d want to know what kind of eportfolio system are you talking about? One where students pick what they put in and how they want to present it or one that is more prescribed? And would one way be favored over another along gendered lines?


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