Wednesday, March 20, 2013

On Our Own: Women's Colleges in the 21st Century

From The Webbs Schools Magazine: On Our Own: Women's Colleges in the 21st Century
Published on March 7, 2013 To read the entire article, click here.

Highlights Include

Then and Now
"In the 1800s, women’s colleges were almost the only choice for women seeking higher education; few universities accepted female students. Some of the earliest women’s colleges, like Mount Holyoke, were originally seminaries. Others were (and still are) affiliated with established colleges—created, in some cases, as an alternative to admitting women to existing all-male institutions.

Today, the need for women’s colleges is less obvious. Most American universities are coeducational and women outnumber men on college campuses. Some traditional women’s colleges have disappeared, while others are now coed.

However, as many women have realized, just because an institution is open to women does not necessarily mean it is welcoming or supportive.

Researchers have noted that the climate for female students on coed campuses is often less than ideal, with negative consequences for women’s academic achievement and even their physical health. 

Furthermore, while about 60 percent of college students are female, teaching methods at coed universities predominantly favor the learning styles of male students.

Nowhere is the impact of these disparities more pronounced than in science, technology, engineering and math. A recent study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research notes that female students are far less likely than men to receive under graduate degrees in these disciplines and warns that the number of women in math and computer-related fields has actually fallen since 2000.

An Academic Edge
Several recent studies on women in higher education have concluded that female students would be better served by a classroom environment tailored to the ways most women learn, with greater emphasis on participation, collaboration, and hands-on learning. What these studies seldom mention is that women’s colleges have offered just such an environment for decades.

Unlike most coed universities, the pedagogy at women’s colleges is tailored to the learning styles of female students.

“Smith professors know how to teach women and how to keep them engaged in the classroom,” says alumna Jumana Misleh. She recalls: I never considered myself strong in mathematics, but somehow I managed to earn A’s in Calculus I and Calculus II, and I credit my professors’ innovative teaching style for my success. ... Things were explained visually, using computer modeling programs and other hands-on exercises, and aside from exams that would test rote memorization, students were also expected to complete analytical research projects where we applied our mathematical skills to real-world problems.

That was the first time in my life that I was confident in a math class! Such results are no accident. “At a women’s college, every resource is dedicated to the education of and opportunities for women,” says Wellesley College Dean of Admissions Jennifer Desjarlais. Smith’s Debra Shaver adds that pedagogy at women’s colleges also tends to be more innovative than that at coed universities, pointing to examples like Smith’s open curriculum, which encourages students to take classes in many different fields, not just a narrow range of prerequisites. “It changes the dynamic in the classroom,” says Shaver. “Every student in every class wants to be there; she is not there because she needs to check off a requirement.”"

To read the entire article, click here.

The Webb Schools, located in Claremont, California is comprised of two private schools for grades 9-12; The Webb School of California for boys was established in 1922, and the Vivian Webb School for girls in 1981.

To learn more about The Webb Schools, click here.

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