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STEM Class Size and Women's Participation

July 26, 2019

Increasing class size negatively impacts women's participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics classrooms, says a new study in BioScience. Based on data from 44 different institutions and 5,300 student-instructor interactions, researchers found that this effect kicks in at around 120 students per class. "We show that class size has the largest impact on female participation, with smaller classes leading to more equitable participation. We also found that women are most likely to participate after small-group discussions when instructors use diverse teaching strategies," lead author Cissy Ballen, a former postdoctoral researcher in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology at Cornell University and current assistant professor at Auburn University, said in a statement. "We hope these results encourage instructors to be proactive in their classrooms with respect to these inequities."

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Colleen Flaherty

Colleen Flaherty, Reporter, covers faculty issues for Inside Higher Ed. Prior to joining the publication in 2012, Colleen was military editor at the Killeen Daily Herald, outside Fort Hood, Texas. Before that, she covered government and land use issues for the Greenwich Time and Hersam Acorn Newspapers in her home state of Connecticut. After graduating from McGill University in Montreal in 2005 with a degree in English literature, Colleen taught English and English as a second language in public schools in the Bronx, N.Y. She earned her M.S.Ed. from City University of New York Lehman College in 2008 as part of the New York City Teaching Fellows program. 

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