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Research From Stanford Law Professors Offers Ways to Close Gender Gap
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Summary: New research from two professors at Stanford Law School has found possible ways to close the gender gap at law and professional schools. 

Two Stanford Law School professors have released a new study that has found possible ways to reduce the gender gap in professional schools, according to the school.


“Our findings suggest that class size and pedagogical policy have a considerable role to play in addressing gender gaps in professional school,” wrote Stanford law Professors Daniel Ho Mark Kelman in the Journal of Legal Studies.

To read more stories about Stanford Law School, click here.

The law professors looked at the grades of Stanford law students in large or small classes from 2001 to 2012.

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The data included 15,689 grades assigned by 91 instructors to 1,897 students during the period.

There was a large gender gap for female students in large classes, according to the data from 2001-2008. During that period, women earned average grades that were .05 GPA points lower than the grades for men.

The professors said that even though the gap is small, it is significant in a field such as law. They said that an increase in GPA from 3.6 to 3.65 is viewed as a 7 percent increase in the probability of grabbing a federal appellate clerkship.

To read more gender gap-related stories, click here.

The study found that when the school created an “honors and pass” system in 2008, the gap disappeared across all of the school’s courses. The new system did away with letter grades and went towards levels of achievement; honors, pass, restricted credit and fail.

Kelman said, “Smaller classes eliminated the gender gap that existed in large courses from 2001-08, and the gap disappeared after 2008 when we moved to a less-pressured honors/pass grading system from numerical grades, and actually is reversed in small simulation-based classes.”

Ho noted, the following: “Our best sense, from collecting information from instructors, syllabi, final exams and course evaluations, is that small classes may facilitate certain forms of pedagogy that re-engage the broader student body.”

The report found that small classes were more likely to involve written feedback on exams.

“The smallest, simulation-intensive class led women to outperform men. These results are consistent with evidence from physics courses suggesting that pedagogy via interactive engagement exercises reduces gender differences,” said Ho.

To read more about class sizes, click here.

Kelman said that even though the data provides conversation on how to close the gender gap, there is still more work left to do in order to understand how class size affects students.

“I do think schools should look at these results and experiment with whatever forms of small-group, problem-focused pedagogy that they are able to make available and study whether they get the sorts of effects we have gotten from small sections and simulation-based courses,” Kelman said.

Ho is a professor of law and the Robert E. Paradise Faculty Fellow for Excellence in Teaching and Research. Kelman is the James C. Gaither Professor of Law and Vice Dean at Stanford Law School.

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Image credit: Stanford Law School



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