Women and maths – the effect of stereotyping

18 11 2010

My attention was recently drawn to this fascinating study conducted over a decade ago now, although its findings seem to have been largely ignored.

The study at the University of Michigan, first looked at psychology students with fairly high levels of maths knowledge and skills. It was discovered that males outperformed females at difficult tests, whilst there was no difference in easier tests.

In the second part of the study, a 2 part test was conducted where half the participants were told that the questions in the first half were shown to produce gender differences, but the second half was not, and half the participants were told it was the other way around. Interestingly, the investigators discovered that where a gender difference was expected by participants, one existed, but was eliminated when they were not expecting an effect of gender.

These results were replicated in a less highly selected sample of students.

What I find most interesting is how this information is being used now, in the UK. If this ‘stereotype threat’ has the potential to impact upon performance in exams, how is this translating to the classroom. Could it that the reports every year that girls do better in school exams than boys may in fact be a self-fulfilling prophecy?

Jx

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“no decision about me without me” part the first

14 07 2010

“No decision about me without me.” Liberating the NHS.

Some of you might have heard that – buried between an international footballing tournament and second by second updates on a gunman in Northumberland – the government has released their plans for a total upheaval within the NHS.

Now, whether you’ve been sat in a waiting room for 2 hours, or had the misfortune to go to a party with a ‘medical bore’, it would be difficult to escape the relentless manager-bashing that has grown over the past few years. When things don’t work as they should in hospitals, a mere reference to the problems being all because of “too many managers” explains the whole thing away. Health professionals and patients alike bemoan the powers granted to these people who – as far as we can see – often have little experience with healthcare, and maybe applying a business model to the lives and health of individuals feels a little… well, icky.

Well, it turns out some govenrment bod has listened to this common doctors’ gripe, and turned round to the PM and gone “y’know what, lets give them what they say they want”.

My understanging of the report – and I’m still digesting it, so expect an update over the coming days – has it boiled down to a few key points.

  1. The NHS is great – the government loves what it sets out to achieve and wants it to be even better.
  2. Patient choice should be in the forefront of everyone’s minds for the future of the NHS.
  3. “Targets” are to be replaced by “clinically credible and evidence based outcome measures”.
  4. The relationship between the government and drug developers may become interesting, and a fund will be set up to pay for those oh so expensive cancer drugs.
  5. The roles of the current commissioners (i.e. people who decide what the limitted pot of money should be spent on and wwhere provides services) with be taken over by groups of GPs who will be in charge of commissioning most of what their patients need, apart from the primary care bits, which will be looked at by another group (The NHS Commissioning Board).

This is potentially a massive change in how the NHS works. All I want to say for now is that I love our National Health Service. I am passionate about how fantastic it is. Sure, things could be better, but what we have in the UK is an example to the rest of the world. I look to see how this document will translate in practice with great interest.

Jx