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Girls' participation in the classroom

30 May 1997


This qualitative study seeks to answer the following question: why do some girls hesitate to speak up in the classroom? My research has been based primarily on the works of Carol Gilligan (1982), Deborah Tannen (1990), Mary Pipher (1994), and Emily Hancock (1989). Their research has several implications for my study. Gilligan contends that girls' psychological development differs from boys' due to their perceptions of themselves in relationship to others; thus their moral reasoning is strongly influenced by how they see themselves in relation to others. Tannen also believes that females see themselves within a web of connection, and that their conversations are aimed at preserving connections rather than breaking them. Pipher illustrates the societal pressures that cause adolescent girls to lose their sense of self, as well as their voice. Lastly, Hancock suggests there is a 'girl within' each women who is confident, spontaneous,. and true to herself. Often this 'girl within' is lost in the process of growing up; in order to regain this identity, one must use imagination to experience what it was like to be that girl again. This research took place at a suburban K-12 independent school located in a city in the Pacific Northwest. The participants were high school freshman. Information was gathered through video-recorded classroom observations, taped interviews, written surveys, and writing samples. I have used pseudonyms for all participants in this study in order to protect their rights to privacy and anonymity. After analyzing data, I found that the girls in my study did enjoy speaking up in the classroom. However, their decision to speak up was influenced by how they saw themselves in relation to others, the amount of time teachers waited for a response, and if they felt "safe" emotionally within the classroom


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