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Gender Curriculum and California Community College Students: A Study of How Non-Elective Gender Curriculum Impacts Community College Students

  • Author(s): Smith, Jennifer Anne
  • Advisor(s): Eagan, Mark K.
  • et al.

There is a need to focus on adding more gender studies into mainstream coursework for many reasons. Schools in the United States, unlike some other leading global powers, are not doing enough to combat gender stereotyping, sexism, and gender disparity. Incorporating gender studies into required coursework could potentially do much to combat the sexism and gender disparity inherent in the current American educational system as well as in the American workforce and American politics. Additionally, gender studies within mainstream or required coursework might have the potential to increase student success, engagement, and activism on campus. To date, the bulk of studies about the impact of feminism and or gender studies instruction have been conducted with students who have elected into Women and Gender Studies (WGS) or feminism courses, not students who encounter gender components as part of their standard curriculum. This study adds some understanding of this under researched area.

Accordingly, this mixed methods study sought to measure the impact of non-elective gender studies components in required classes for community college students to understand if exposure to such coursework results in changed perceptions about gender related concepts, including feminism, sexism, and gender roles and norms. The study consisted of a survey of several hundred students and document analysis of student reflections. The findings of this study were that students seemed as likely to change or not change their attitudes in a class that included a gender component as in a class that did not include a gender component. A point of interest however is the students in the gender component courses regularly had higher Pre-and Post- scale scores than students in the non-gender component courses, even though the rate of change was consistent between groups. Why this is the case is as yet undetermined, though it might be, in part, a self-selection effect or due to imperfections of this study.

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