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).
Reflection and Gender