Girls in Science
by Liesl Chatman, Katherine Nielsen, Erin J. Strauss, and Kimberly D. Tanner With J. Myron Atkin, Marjorie Bullitt Bequette, and Michell Phillips
Price at time of review: $24.95
Grade Level: K-8
Reviewed by Deb McNabney
Science Educator - retired
This book addresses the critical issue of gender equity in science classrooms. But don't pigeonhole it in a particular niche; it is a philosophical and practical primer for teaching science to all students. This effort is based on the work of the Triad program, a community of teachers, scientists, and professional evaluators in the San Francisco area. In the 1990s, this group received an NSF award to finance after-school science clubs for girls, co-sponsored by teams of scientists and teachers.
Girls in Science documents the Triad team's struggles to increase the effectiveness of their efforts. The longevity and the objectivity of their efforts earned my respect even before I began to read the details of the Triad Framework.
The book is divided into three sections. Section 1 describes the Triad Framework and identifies the areas of knowledge (called goal sets) needed for effective science education. These goal sets include knowledge of students and learning, knowledge of effective teaching methods and pedagogy, and knowledge of the discipline of science. This framework provides the backdrop for purposeful planning and the pursuit of authentic science in the classroom. Each of the goal sets of the framework contains five goals that are further subdivided into five targeted strategies. Pages 23 tp 26 provide a beautiful organizational chart of the framework.
Section 2 is the heart of the book; each chapter is organized around one of the framework's goal sets. A graphic organizer identifies the goal set and outlines the related goals and strategies. The chapter text highlights each of the goals using a reader-friendly organizational structure. An essay connecting the goal to relevant research is followed by a brief case study (called a vignette). The essay discusses the implication of the research and provides a "to-do" list for achieving the goal.
The vignettes are taken from reports, reflections, transcripts, and records of the scientists and teachers involved in the program. Frequently, they are written descriptions of events that occurred during club meetings. These are followed by reflection questions that personalize the situation described. For example, a scientist described the initial hesitation of the girls in her club to explore materials needed to make a lava lamp. The girls were uncomfortable without a set of step-by-step instructions.
The reflection questions explore the girls' behavior and encourage readers to develop strategies to achieve the targeted "confidence-to-explore" goal. Links are provided to other related vignettes after each set of reflection questions. These links were the only ineffective part of the book. They were difficult to find (no page numbers were provided), and they seemed unnecessary.
Section 3 details five suggestions for getting started on the path to gender-equitable science teaching. They include: Make the Triad Framework Your Own, Reflect Through Writing, Engage in Classroom Research, Start an After-School Science Club, and Build a Reflective Community. The appendix contains guidelines for using the book in a professional development setting, data collection methods, and cited literature.
Girls in Science would be a valuable addition to any science educator's professional library. Because the book's organization allows readers to "dive-in" rather than read the book cover-to-cover, it would be an effective professional development tool. I could also see the potential to adapt the framework to other curricular areas. National Board candidates should consider this book a must-read.
Review posted on 7/11/2008