Responding to the Gender Gap in Informal Science Education
Under the direction of Kevin Crowley, the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh will investigate gender bias in parental explanations in informal learning settings. This project, Responding to the Gender Gap in Informal Science Education, will build on previous research at children's museums where the conversations of 338 families with children eight years and younger at sixteen different interactive exhibits were recorded and analyzed. They found that parents were almost three times more likely to use explanations when interacting with boys than girls. In this project they will conduct additional research to isolate the causes and outcomes associated with gender bias in these parental explanations and then they will develop, evaluate, and disseminate a range of low-cost methods to modify science exhibits to support parental explanation to both girls and boys. The latter will take the form of an Explanation Toolbox (XBox) which will be a set of resources to help museums construct and evaluate their own modifications to support non-biased parental explanations, with special attention paid to including explanations for the young girls, in addition to the usual conversations about manipulating the exhibits and about the visual, auditory, and tactile information produced by the exhibit. Results of the research and the toolbox will be broadly disseminated via the World Wide Web and published research reports.