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Leveling the Playing Field: How Cold-Calling Affects Class Discussion Gender Equity

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Classroom discussion is widely used and highly valued for actively engaging students in their own learning. A recent study has shown that cold-calling increases the number of students who participate voluntarily in class discussions and does not make them uncomfortable when doing so (Dallimore, Hertenstein, & Platt, 2013). However, there are concerns about whether these findings generally apply to both men and women students since prior research has documented lower participation rates and higher discomfort for women. This study examines the relationship between cold-calling and a) voluntary participation of both men and women students and b) student comfort participating in class discussions. The results show that cold-calling increases the percentage of both men and women who participate voluntarily. Further, the results indicate in high cold-calling classes women answer the same number of volunteer questions as men. Additionally, increased cold-calling did not make either group uncomfortable. However, differences were observed between men and women in low cold-calling environments where women answered fewer questions than men. Thus, cold-calling may help improve the performance of both men and women in class discussions and may make the classroom environment more equitable for women.
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Journal of Education and Learning; Vol. 8, No. 2; 2019
ISSN 1927-5250 E-ISSN 1927-5269
Published by Canadian Center of Science and Education
14
Leveling the Playing Field: How Cold-Calling Affects Class
Discussion Gender Equity
Elise J. Dallimore1, Julie H. Hertenstein2 & Marjorie B. Platt2
1 College of Art Media and Design, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts, US
2 D’Amore-McKim School of Business, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts, US
Correspondence: Marjorie B. Platt, Northeastern University, 404 Hayden Hall, 360 Huntington Ave., Boston
MA 02115 US. Tel: 1-617-373-4647. E-mail: m.platt@northeastern.edu
Received: February 3, 2019 Accepted: February 22, 2019 Online Published: February 25, 2019
doi:10.5539/jel.v8n2p14 URL: https://doi.org/10.5539/jel.v8n2p14
Abstract
Classroom discussion is widely used and highly valued for actively engaging students in their own learning. A
recent study has shown that cold-calling increases the number of students who participate voluntarily in class
discussions and does not make them uncomfortable when doing so (Dallimore, Hertenstein, & Platt, 2013).
However, there are concerns about whether these findings generally apply to both men and women students
since prior research has documented lower participation rates and higher discomfort for women.
This study examines the relationship between cold-calling and a) voluntary participation of both men and women
students and b) student comfort participating in class discussions. The results show that cold-calling increases
the percentage of both men and women who participate voluntarily. Further, the results indicate in high
cold-calling classes women answer the same number of volunteer questions as men. Additionally, increased
cold-calling did not make either group uncomfortable. However, differences were observed between men and
women in low cold-calling environments where women answered fewer questions than men. Thus, cold-calling
may help improve the performance of both men and women in class discussions and may make the classroom
environment more equitable for women.
Keywords: class discussion, gender equity, student participation, cold-calling, comfort participating
1. Introduction
When discussion teaching is utilized, evidence suggests the more often students participate, the more they learn
(Dallimore, Hertenstein, & Platt, 2010; Morford, 2009). Therefore, one way instructors may help students learn
is to ensure their discussion participation. However, most instructors would agree that getting all students to
participate can be difficult. Students’ hesitancy to participate ranges from shyness to cultural norms to lack of
preparation. In a recent study, cold-calling, or calling on a student whose hand is not raised, is shown to increase
voluntary participation in class discussion (Dallimore et al., 2013). Dallimore et al. (2013) further provides
evidence that contrary to fears expressed by some authors (for example, Rocca (2010)) cold-calling does not
necessarily make students uncomfortable. However, Dallimore et al. (2013) did not examine whether
cold-calling affected women in the same way as men. This study goes beyond Dallimore et al. (2013) by
focusing not on whether cold-calling is effective in encouraging students to more actively engage in class
discussion, but rather on how cold-calling differentially affects men versus women students’ class participation.
Prior studies have documented differences between women and men in class participation. These studies note
that women participate less frequently than men (see, for example, Sadker & Sadker (1994); Tatum, Schwartz,
Schimmoeller, & Perry (2013)), still experience “‘chilly’ behaviors from their male peers” (Allan & Madden,
2006), and may be less comfortable participating (Micari & Drane, 2011). These differences raise concerns that
cold-calling might make women uncomfortable.
The study reported here examines the impact of cold-calling on the voluntary participation of men and women
students and on their comfort participating in class discussions. Results find that in class environments with high
cold-calling: (a) more men and women participate, and (b) women answer the same number of volunteer
questions as men. Further, men and women respond similarly to cold-calling from the perspective of their
comfort participating; that is, increased cold-calling did not make either group uncomfortable.
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On the contrary, in the class environments where little cold-calling was used women volunteered to answer
fewer questions than did men. This evidence is consistent with prior literature on men and women in the
classroom. It appears that when little cold-calling is used, prior expectations and behaviors regarding class
participation continue. However, greater use of cold-calling may signal that all students are expected to
participate and the contributions of all are valued, resulting in women’s participation on par with men’s.
These results make important contributions to the discussion teaching and cold-calling literature. They also
contribute to the literature on gender differences in the classroom. We first review the literature on class
discussion and learning, then gender and the classroom, strategies for increasing participation, and finally the
emerging literature on the effects of cold-calling when encouraging participation. We next present our research
hypotheses, methodology, and results, followed by our discussion and implications. After acknowledging this
study’s limitations and suggesting future research topics, we provide our concluding remarks.
2. Literature Review
2.1 Discussion Participation Leads to Learning
Discussion participation can enhance student learning (Dallimore et al., 2010; Fritschner, 2000; Weaver & Qi,
2005) including providing students opportunities to develop and practice essential skills such as organizing
concepts, formulating arguments, evaluating evidence, and responding to ideas thoughtfully and critically (Davis,
2009). Additionally, it allows students to experience a realistic context (Liang & Wang, 2004) and master the
language and thinking of a discipline (Krupnick, 1985). Discussion participation enables students to better retain
information and elicits higher-level reflective thinking (Ewens, 2000), critical thinking (Tsui, 2002), and
problem solving (Gilmore & Schall, 1996).
2.2 Gender Differences in Class Participation
Prior studies have shown women students participate less frequently than men (see, for example, Allan &
Madden, (2006); Colbeck, Cabrera, & Terenzini (2001); Tatum et al. (2013)). Hall’s foundational research (1982)
notes, “… it has come to be taken for granted by many faculty and students alike that men will usually dominate
the discussion in college classrooms …” (p. 7). Further, the tendency for women to remain silent may increase
over time. Sadker and Sadker indicate, “Women’s silence is loudest at college, with twice as many females
voiceless.” (1994, p. 170). The cumulative effect of teachers’ behaviors toward women and men students from
grade school through postgraduate studies are believed, at least in part, to be responsible for the gender
differences in class participation (Allan & Madden, 2006; Hall, 1982; Sadker & Sadker, 1994).
In addition to research suggesting men speak more, recent evidence suggests men are more comfortable
participating than women (Micari & Drane, 2011). There is also evidence that women at the university-level may
have higher communication apprehension than men (Coetzee, Schmulian, & Kotze, 2014; Donovan & MacIntyre,
2004). It is not clear, however, whether these differences are because women are inherently less comfortable or
whether. they may result from factors such as past differences in treatment and fewer opportunities to participate.
In order to treat women and men students equitably, instructors are encouraged to make special efforts to draw
women into the discussion, particularly early in the course when participation patterns are likely established
(Fritschner, 2000; Hall, 1982) and to treat students equitably including: listen to all students with equal
seriousness; challenge, correct and praise all students, and ask all students the same kinds of questions (Krupnick,
1985). Instructors are specifically encouraged to call on all students directly even if they don’t raise their hands
(Dallimore et al., 2013; Hall, 1982; Krupnick, 1985).
2.3 Increasing Participation
Many suggestions have been made about how to increase the number of students who volunteer to participate.
For example, it has been suggested that instructors encourage all students to participate (Davis, 2009), set clear
expectations about participation (Scollon & Bau, 1981) and provide participation feedback and evaluation
rubrics (Arter & McTighe, 2001; Stevens & Levi, 2005). More recently, there has been increasing discourse on
the use of technology in teaching (Beekes, 2006; Quinn, 2010) which may increase student participation
(Carnaghan & Webb, 2007; Cunningham, 2008). While these techniques may increase the number of students
who volunteer, not all students participate voluntarily (Sadker & Sadker, 1994).
2.4 Effects of Cold-calling on Student Discussion Participation
A recent study suggests cold-calling provides a means to increase voluntary participation (Dallimore et al., 2013);
however, the researchers did not examine whether cold-calling affected women the same way it affected men.
Despite the fact that cold-calling provides a means to increase voluntary participation, some authors express
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concern with its use, fearing it will be anxiety-provoking and make students uncomfortable (Felder & Brent,
2008; Rocca, 2010; Weimer, 2009). Dallimore et al. (2013) provide further evidence that cold-calling does not
make students uncomfortable. However, especially because the majority of the students in their sample were
men, the responses of women may have been concealed. Given the recommendations that all students be treated
equally, an examination of whether cold-calling affects women the same way as men is needed.
3. Research Hypotheses
One characteristic of student participation in class discussions is the percentage of students who participate.
Cold-calling has been shown to increase the percentage of students who participate voluntarily in class
discussions (Dallimore et al., 2013). However as previously discussed differences have been noted in the number
of women participants compared to the number of men; in general, we expect women students may respond
differently to the use of cold-calling than men.
H1: Cold-calling affects the percentage of men who answer questions voluntarily differently than it affects the
percentage of women.
Another characteristic of student participation is frequency or the number of times a student participates.
Dallimore et al. (2013) found the frequency of students’ voluntary participation was greater in classes where
cold-calling was used often. However, again considering the previously discussed participation differences
between men and women generally, we expect the frequency of women’s participation may differ from men’s
when cold-calling is used often.
H2: Cold-calling affects men’s participation frequency differently than it affects women’s.
There is long-standing concern (Hall, 1982) and evidence (Micari & Drane, 2011) that women are uncomfortable
speaking in class. Further, as previously discussed, some authors have suggested cold-calling might make any
student uncomfortable. Despite the fact that Dallimore et al. (2013) found cold-calling did not make students
uncomfortable, it is possible cold-calling might have a different effect on women’s comfort than on men’s.
H3: Cold-calling affects women’s comfort participating in class discussions differently than it affects men’s.
4. Method
The quasi-experimental research design involved gathering both observation and survey data from students in a
required undergraduate managerial accounting course at a major, private university. This course is ideally suited
to examine how women and men students differ in their classroom participation behavior as well as attitudes
towards class discussion because there are about equal women in undergraduate business educational programs
generally as compared to men. (Note 1)
4.1 Course and Instructors
Managerial accounting develops quantitative as well as logic and strategic reasoning skills. The required
managerial accounting course is typically taken by students in the beginning of their sophomore year; each
section tends to have about 40 students. All sections of the course were “managed” such that students had a
common experience. Instructors used the same text book and taught similar topics, but used their own pedagogy
and materials.
Seven full-time instructors taught the course sections included in this study. Six were tenured or tenure-track and
one was a full-time lecturer. Based on student ratings of teaching effectiveness and “treats students with respect,”
all instructors were considered strong teachers who provided a supportive environment in the classroom.
Average teaching effectiveness ratings were 4.51 and average respect ratings were 4.64 on five-point scales.
The study rationale or research hypotheses were not discussed with the instructors. We did not actively control
instructor’s use of cold-calling. Variations in whether, or how much, instructors cold-called students were due to
their natural instructional style.
4.2 Data
Two types of data were collected and integrated to create a common dataset. A pre-course survey was
administered in the first two weeks of the course, followed by two observation periods in weeks 6-7 and 9-10
during which students discussed two different business cases. Finally, a post-course survey was administered
during the last two weeks of the course.
4.2.1 Surveys
The pre-course survey gathered data on students’ attitudes and behaviors related to class participation in courses
prior to the managerial accounting course. The post-course survey focused on students’ attitudes and behaviors
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related to class participation in the managerial accounting course. The Appendix contains questions analyzed in
this study from both surveys. Demographic data including gender were also collected.
4.2.2 Observations
Specific class sessions were selected for observation because the session was devoted to a business case
discussion. One graduate student was assigned to each class session as an observer. Observers were trained to
categorize questions and record data. Following initial training, practice sessions were repeated until observers
achieved consistency in coding. Research hypotheses were not discussed with the observers.
On a seating chart, observers noted the gender and seat location of each student at the beginning of each class
session. For each question asked, the observer noted whether the instructor called on a volunteer or cold-called a
student and recorded which student responded.
4.3 Student Sample
Using the last four digits of student identification numbers, pre-course and post-course surveys were matched for
359 students. The number of students present for the first and second observation periods were 578 and 559,
respectively. Approximately the same proportion of men (54%) and women (46%) survey respondents were
present during the two class periods observed.
4.4 Data Analysis
4.4.1 Independent Variables
4.4.1.1 Gender
Men students were coded as zero (0), and women were coded as one (1).
4.4.1.2 Cold-Call Environment
This study’s prime focus is to assess gender differences in student behavior during class discussions as well as
students’ perceptions about class discussions in differing cold-call environments. Based on observations of the
percentage of students cold-called during the first class discussion, we categorized sections into two groups
separated at the mean percentage of students cold-called, 26%. The percentage of students cold-called in the high
cold-calling (Hi CC) sections ranged from 33% to 84%; by contrast, the percentage of students cold-called in the
low cold-calling (Lo CC) sections ranged from 0% to 24%. This categorization scheme resulted in five sections
(196 students) rated as Hi CC and eleven sections (486 students) as Lo CC.
4.4.1.3 Observation Period
Because we could not identify the particular student sitting in each seat for each class discussion, the two
observation periods were treated as between subject measures.
4.4.2 Dependent Variables—Observation Data
4.4.2.1 Voluntary Student Participation
Within each observation period, if a student answered at least one volunteer question, we recorded a 1 for that
student on the “answered a voluntary question” variable; otherwise, we recorded a 0. The percent of men and
women present who answered at least one volunteer question was calculated for each section.
4.4.2.2 Participation Frequency per Student
To measure the frequency of voluntary participation at the individual student level, the number (count) of
volunteer questions answered by each student present was recorded.
4.4.3 Dependent Variables—Survey Data
The pre-course survey questions focused on individual students’ attitudes about class discussion as well as their
own prior class discussion behavior. The post-course survey data focused on students’ self-reported class
participation as well as their attitudes and perceptions of their own and other students’ class participation.
4.5 Statistical Analysis
Gender differences in student behavior and perceptions of class discussion between the two cold-call
environments were analyzed using both univariate and multivariate analyses.
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5. Results
5.1 Student Gender and Prior Student Attitudes and Perceptions of Class Discussion
Student t-tests were conducted to compare women and men students’ mean attitudes and perceptions of class
discussion prior to the course from data collected in the pre-course survey. Men and women did not differ with
respect to liking of or familiarity with class discussion, general evaluation of class participation, or typical or
expected participation patterns as found in Table 1. However, there were two significant differences between
women and men prior to the start of the course. Most notably, women students rated the question about typical
comfort when engaged in active class participation lower than the men. Women rated their general satisfaction
with class participation lower than the men as well. Thus, for the most part, men and women students began the
course with similar attitudes about and perceptions of class discussion and class participation. However, women
were less comfortable and less satisfied with their own class participation performance in prior courses.
Table 1. Pre-course survey mean comparisons between women and men students for key measures of attitudes
and behaviors related to class discussion
Women Students
M (SD)
Men Students
M(SD)
GenderDifference
p-value
Liking of Class Discussion 5.20 (1.37) 5.10 (1.25) ns
Familiarity with Class Discussion 5.79 (1.22) 5.68 (1.19) ns
Typical Participation Frequency 4.81 (1.43) 4.73 (1.36) ns
Expected Participation Frequency 5.00 (1.19) 5.08 (1.16) ns
Typical Comfort Participating 4.63 (1.55) 4.92 (1.41) <.05
General Evaluation of Class Participation 4.94 (1.28) 4.90 (1.28) ns
Satisfaction with Class Participation 4.64 (1.36) 4.89 (1.25) <.05
5.2 Effect of Student Gender on Percentage of Students Voluntarily Responding to Questions
The evidence pertaining to the effect of student gender on voluntary responses to questions is based upon the
examination of observations collected during two case sessions. The percentage of students who voluntarily
responded during the discussion was analyzed using a full factorial repeated measures analysis of variance with
three independent factors—student gender (women vs. men), cold-call environment (Lo CC vs. Hi CC) and
observation period (case discussion 1 vs. case discussion 2). (Note 2) As shown in the ANOVA Results Table
under Figure 1, there was no main effect due to gender differences on the percentage of students volunteering,
holding the effects of cold-call environment and observation period constant. Further, the interaction between
student gender and observation period is not significant. The ANOVA results do reveal a significant student
gender by cold-call environment interaction, as shown graphically in Figure 1. While a significantly higher
percentage of women and men students voluntarily participate in Hi CC than in Lo CC sections, further analysis
of the increase reveals that the rate of change for women is significantly greater than for men (t(429) = 2.90, p =
0.004).
Figure 1. Gender by cold-call environment (CC) interaction: percentage of students volunteering
0.4
0.45
0.5
0.55
0.6
0.65
0.7
0.75
0.8
0.85
0.9
Lo CC Hi CC
Percentage of Students
Volunteering
0.57
0.52
0.82
0.73
Women
Men
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ANOVA Results Table
Factor df F-statistic p-value
Gender 1 0.312 0.577
Gender x Observation 1 1.388 0.239
Gender x Cold-call Environment (CC) 1 5.776 0.016
Gender x Observation x CC 1 0.198 0.656
H1 focuses on the relationship between student gender and the percentage of students volunteering during class
discussion. The results provide clear support that cold-calling differentially affects the percentage of women vs.
men students voluntarily participating in class discussion, as the difference between Lo CC and Hi CC sections
for women was significantly higher than for men. These results suggest women may be more sensitive to
pedagogical approaches that encourage full participation in class discussion.
5.3 Effect of Student Gender on Frequency of Student Voluntary Class Participation
This section concentrates on the number of questions answered as compared to the prior section which focuses
on the percentage of students participating in the discussions. Based on the observation data, the number of
voluntary questions answered per student was computed.
5.3.1 Class Participation Observations
A full factorial repeated measures analysis of variance with three independent factors—student gender, cold-call
environment and observation period – was used to analyze the number of volunteer questions answered per
student. The table below Figure 2 contains the results of this analysis. We find only one significant effect due to
student gender, a gender by cold-call environment interaction, as shown graphically in Figure 2. This interaction
indicates women students answer significantly more volunteer questions in the Hi CC sections than Lo CC
sections (t(577) = 6.346, p = 0.000); whereas, there is no significant increase in the number of volunteer
questions answered by men when comparing Hi CC sections to Lo CC sections (t(851) = 1.100, p = 0.272).
Further, post hoc comparisons between men and women for the total number of volunteer questions answered
shows a significant difference in the Lo CC sections (t(784) = 2.904, p<.01), but no difference in the Hi CC
sections (t(350) = 1.08, ns).
Figure 2. Gender by cold-call Environment (CC) interaction: number of volunteer questions answered per
student
ANOVA Results Table
Factor df F-statistic p-value
Gender 1 0.429 0.512
Gender x Observation 1 0.013 0.910
Gender x Cold-call Environment (CC) 1 6.966 0.008
Gender x Observation x CC 1 1.184 0.277
0.5
1
1.5
2
2.5
Lo CC Hi CC
Number of Volunteer Questions
Answered per Student
1.78
1.33
2.40
2.13
Women
Men
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Hypothesis 2 which relates student gender to the frequency of voluntary participation finds strong support from
the analysis of the number of volunteer questions per student. The data suggest that when comparing
participation between men and women across cold-call environments, the number of volunteer questions per
student answered by women is significantly below that of men in Lo CC sections, but converges to men’s in Hi
CC sections.
5.3.2 Instructor Cold-Calling Behavior
The differences in behavior between men and women students discussed above raise the question of the effect of
instructor behavior on student responses to class discussion. The following analysis addresses one aspect of
instructor impact on class discussion: whether the instructor treats men and women students the same with
respect to cold-calling during class discussion.
Because cold-called questions are initiated by the course instructor and directed at a particular student, analysis
of these data can reveal bias if it is present. The number of cold-called questions per student was analyzed using
the same approach as described above for the number of voluntary questions answered per student. In this case
the repeated measures ANOVA did not reveal significant gender differences overall (F(1, 1 130) = 0.204, p
= .651). Further, there was no significant interaction between gender and cold-call environment (F(1, 1 130) =
0.029, p = 0.865). Therefore, the analyses indicate instructors in both Lo CC and Hi CC environments
cold-called men and women students similarly.
5.3.3 Summary of Findings Regarding Hypothesis 2
In summary, when cold-calling is used frequently within a classroom environment, we see that voluntary class
participation frequency increases for both men and women. Further, the significant gender by cold-call
environment interaction in the observation data reveals women are more responsive to increased cold-calling.
Their voluntary participation frequency increases from being significantly less than men in the Lo CC
environment to being on a par with men in the Hi CC environment. Finally, instructors cold-called women and
men students in a similar fashion; that is, instructor cold-calling did not favor one gender over the other. These
results support research hypotheses 2.
5.4 Student Gender Effects on Comfort with Class Participation
When cold-calling is used, more women and men students participate voluntarily. Given this result, we
examined whether the effect of cold-calling on student comfort with class participation produced gender
differences. As shown in Table 1, prior to the beginning of the course, there was a significant difference between
men and women in ratings for comfort with class participation. Men students rated their comfort level
significantly higher than women. This result raises concerns that women may be even more uncomfortable with
class discussion in a Hi CC environment which requires active class participation.
A post-course survey was administered during the last week of the course to assess student attitudes and
perceptions of class discussion. To assess possible gender differences over time within the two classroom
environments, we examined the effects of cold-call environment and survey time period (i.e., pre-course survey
vs. post-course survey) on students’ self-reported comfort with class discussion. Table 2 reports results from a
repeated measures analysis of variance on student comfort, with the survey variables as the repeated measure and
cold-call environment as the between-subject variable. None of the factors significantly affected student comfort
ratings, including the main effect for gender difference as well as the interactions between gender and cold-call
environment in the analysis.
Table 2. ANOVA results from self-reported student comfort with class discussion
Factor df F-statistic p-value
Gender 1 2.253 0.134
Gender x Survey Period 1 0.000 0.996
Gender x Cold-call Environment (CC) 1 0.072 0.788
Gender x Survey Period x CC 1 0.041 0.840
H3 deals with the effect of gender on student comfort with class discussion when cold-calling is used. The
results provide no evidence that students’ self-reported comfort with class discussion is significantly affected by
student gender when cold-calling is used.
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6. Discussion
The pre-course survey data show men and women have similar attitudes and behaviors before the course with
respect to participation in class discussions except for comfort participating and satisfaction with their
participation. Women are less comfortable and less satisfied; these findings are consistent with earlier research
on men and women in the classroom.
The differences in participation reported in prior literature might raise concern that women would react to a
classroom environment with extensive cold-calling by withdrawing from the discussion even more and
becoming even more uncomfortable. The results presented here provide evidence that this is not so.
From the observation data gathered during the course, we note that in the Lo CC environment, men tend to
participate voluntarily more than women. Not only is the frequency of men’s voluntary participation
significantly higher than that of women’s, but also a larger percentage of men than women participated
voluntarily although this difference was not significant. Prior foundational research suggests instructors engage
in various behaviors that reinforce the notion that women’s participation is not expected and their contributions
are not important (Hall, 1982, p. 3). Classrooms where instructors do not dynamically and purposefully engage
all students in the discussion may serve to perpetuate these beliefs and discourage women’s participation.
Cold-calling provides a means to improve the performance of both men and women in that it increases the
percentage of each who participates voluntarily. Further and perhaps most importantly, women’s voluntary
participation in Hi CC class environments increases from that found for women in Lo-CC classes and converges
to the participation frequency of men in Hi-CC classes; that is, that they answer the same number of voluntary
questions. Thus, in the Hi CC environment women are on a par with men in that they answer the same number of
volunteer questions. Finally, both men and women respond similarly to cold-calling from the perspective of their
comfort participating; increased cold-calling in the Hi CC environment did not make either group uncomfortable.
Cold-calling is a pedagogical strategy that might enhance equity and provide a more level playing field for
women. When instructors use pedagogical strategies such as cold-calling, in which participation of all students is
actively sought, the women’s response reflects their pent-up demand. Women who may have wanted to
participate but felt discouraged from doing so are now encouraged, thus embracing the opportunity; hence, the
percentage of women participating increases more than men’s.
7. Limitations and Future Research
The results presented above must be interpreted in light of the study’s limitations. The data were gathered in a
required management accounting course in a college of business. Thus, whether the results apply to other
universities, other colleges such as engineering or law, or other disciplines is uncertain. Further, while this study
examines the effects of cold-calling on men and women, the effects of cold-calling comparing other groups (e.g.,
international students vs. domestic students) should be explored.
Although earlier studies show increased participation in class discussions is associated with increased student
learning (Dallimore et al., 2010) and cold-calling is associated with increased participation (Dallimore et al.,
2013), the effect of cold-calling on objective measures of learning, such as final exam scores for individual
students, should be directly examined.
8. Summary
This study examined whether cold-calling affects men and women students the same. It explored both the effect
of cold-calling on the voluntary participation of these two groups and its effect on their comfort participating.
Trained observers gathered data on whether instructors cold-called students or called on volunteers during two
case discussions. In addition, data were gathered using pre- and post-course surveys of students’ perceptions
about and behaviors related to class discussions. The students in this study were sophomores enrolled in a
required business course at a large, private research university.
The primary results indicated that in high cold-calling environments, a larger percentage of both men and women
students participate voluntarily and women are on a par with men in that they answer the same number of
volunteer questions. Further, both men and women respond similarly to cold-calling from the perspective of their
comfort participating; increased cold-calling in the high cold-calling environments did not make either group
uncomfortable. Differences observed between men and women’s participation occurred in the low cold-calling
environments as women answered fewer questions than did men.
This study makes a valuable contribution to the discussion-teaching literature especially as related to cold-calling.
It does so by showing that instructors can cold-call in classes with men and women students and can help both
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groups improve their participation in class discussions without making them uncomfortable. Given that prior
research has shown a strong link between class participation frequency and learning (Dallimore et al., 2010), it is
imperative that all students be encouraged to participate in class discussion, not just those who are initially
willing to volunteer.
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Notes
Note 1. www.collegeatlas.org/top-degrees-by-sex.html
Note 2. For reporting clarity, only the gender main effect and the interactions between gender and the other
factors are presented and discussed.
Appendix
Survey Variables Survey Questions
Pre-Course Survey
Liking of Class Discussion How much do you like class discussion? (1 = Not at all, 7 = Very much)
Familiarity with Class Discussion How familiar are you with class discussion? (1 = Not familiar, 7 = Very familiar)
Typical Participation Frequency In most courses, I participate: (1 = Not at all, 7 = Very frequently)
Expected Participation Frequency In this course, I expect to participate: (1 = Not at all, 7 = Very frequently)
Typical Comfort Participating
In general, when I participate in class discussions, I feel: (1 = Uncomfortable, 7 =
Comfortable)
General Evaluation of Class Participation In general, the evaluation of my class participation has been: (1 = Low, 7 = High)
Satisfaction with Class Participation
In general, my satisfaction with my class participation is: (1 = Not satisfied, 7 = Very
satisfied)
Post Course Survey
Comfort Participating in this Course In this course, when I participated in class discussions I felt: (1=less comfortable,
7=more comfo rtable)
Observation Variables Variable Definition
Percent M(F) Students Voluntarily Answering
Questions
Total Number of M(F) Students Answering Volunteer Questions/Total M(F) Students
Present
Number of Volunteer Questions per M(F) Student Total Number of Volunteer Questions Asked to M(F)/Total M(F) Students Present
Number of Cold-Called Questions per M(F) Student Total Number of Cold-Called Questions Asked to M(F)/Total M(F) Students Present
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... For example, if one student takes charge in a group and dominates the discourse [50,51], other students might not perceive the agency afforded to them in the instruction. In general, men more often take charge of group work or dominate class discourse [52][53][54][55], suggesting women may experience agency in labs differently than men. In a study of science Ph.D. students' experiences, women more often report being ignored and interrupted by their male colleagues and feeling discomfort with the "combative style of communication" in their research group [56]. ...
... This imbalanced demographic distribution can translate into imbalanced gender compositions in lab groups and lead to differential experiences [52]. Even though women are found to benefit more from cooperative group work [73], women have been found to take on more passive roles in physics labs [47][48][49]74] and participate less in discussion [52][53][54][55], which may impact their perceptions of agency. Much of the work has found these disparities in courses for nonphysics majors, however, leaving an important question as to why women in the majors course, but not the engineering course, demonstrated these differing perceptions. ...
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