A study to determine the effects of short term consciousness-raising instructional activities on the societal and educational sexist attitudes of preservice teachers



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Purpose The purpose of this study was the determination of the effects of short term consciousness-raising instructional approaches on the societal and educational sexist attitudes of preservice teachers. Background A review of the literature highlighted the presence and effects of prejudicial attitudes toward women which are as general as the American social system and as immediate as the neighborhood school room. The exhibition and acceptance of attitudes which presuppose the superiority of males over females is termed sexism. This study delineates and measures two types of sexism: societal and educational. Within the educational system, the female teacher was shown to be both a victim and an instrument of sexism. Additionally, the literature indicated the probability that teacher education institutions could effectively reduce the level of teacher and, thus, educational sexism. Procedures and Sample In order to test the ability of teacher education institutions to lessen the level of sexist attitudes, a sample of 70 junior level education students from the University of Houston were selected. These students were divided into three groups. A, B and C with 20, 24 and 26 students, respectively. Group A functioned as a control group, Group B was exposed to a 2 1/2 hour Equality Awareness Lesson and Group C experienced an Equality Awareness Unit encompassing a total of 5 hours spread over 2 sessions. The two treatments consisted of the same six consciousness-raising activities, dealing with sexism in both social and school contexts, only the time schedule was altered. Each Group was pretested and posttested for sexist attitudes. Societal sexist attitudes were measured by the Werner Sexist Attitude Scale (WSAS) developed by Marie Einhorn Werner in 1973. In order to measure educational sexist attitudes the Informal Teacher Sexist Attitude Survey (ITSAS) was developed and validated as part of this project. This study was conducted over a six week period of time. The ITSAS was administered during the first and sixth weeks; the WSAS during the second and fifth weeks; and treatment activities were executed during the third and fourth weeks. Levene's test on the WSAS and ITSAS pretest data indicated homogeneity of variances. A 3x2 Analysis of Variance for unequal n's and repeated measures was performed on the results of the WSAS and the ITSAS. The analysis of the WSAS revealed the presence of no statistically significant main effects. However, the ITSAS analysis signified the existence of two significant main effects. To further define these effects, the Scheffe method of multiple comparisons was performed. This revealed a statistically significant difference in the posttest levels of educational sexist attitude between Group A and Group B and between Group A and Group 0 but not between Group B and Group C. General Conclusions When the conclusions drawn from the WSAS data, the ITSAS data and the review of the literature are combined, they lead to the four general conclusions listed below: 1. Teacher education institutions can and should initiate a program that would effectively lessen the level of sexism in educational situations. 2. Short term instructional treatments that would significantly lower the level of educational sexism of preservice teachers can be incorporated into teacher education programs. 3. To be effective, instructional approaches should be situation specific, include consciousness-raising activities, and need not last more than 2 1/2 hours. 4. Although short term instructional approaches can effectively lessen the level of educational sexism, there is no evidence that they can alter general societal sexist attitudes. Recommendations The conclusions signified by this study lead to the recommendation that teacher education institutions incorporate the study of educational sexism into their present training programs. To further define the optimum design of instructional materials geared to the study of sexism, future research will be necessary. This will be needed not only on the materials themselves but on the methods for evaluating the effectiveness of these materials.