Breaking the Binary
Conceptions of Sex and Gender in Undergraduate Science
Keywords:gender, undergraduate, biology, inclusion
The need to make higher education curricula gender-inclusive is increasingly pressing as student cohorts diversify. We adopted a student-staff partnership approach to design, integrate, and evaluate a module that taught first-year science students the difference between biological sex, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation in the context of genetics concepts at an Australian university. This module aimed to break the binary in misconceptions of both sex and gender, emphasising that both exist on separate spectra. Data triangulation was used to evaluate students’ attitudes towards the module and their learning of module concepts. Students’ attitudes were positive overall, and evaluation of students’ learning indicated that the majority of students understood and retained key concepts, while also identifying common misconceptions. Perhaps the most important finding was that students who identified as belonging to a minority group had significantly more positive attitudes towards the module than non-minority students. This finding supports previous research that has found inclusive curricula have greater benefit for students from minority backgrounds, indicating the importance of making such curriculum enhancements. Our results speak to both the co-creation process and students’ learning outcomes, providing valuable insights for practitioners both within science and beyond.
Abou El Magd, Noha 2016. “Why is My Curriculum White?—Decolonising the Academy.” National Union of Students. https://www.nusconnect.org.uk/articles/why-is-my-curriculum-white-decolonising-the-academy.
Appleton-Knapp, Sara L., and Kathleen A. Krentler. 2006. “Measuring Student Expectations and Their Effects on Satisfaction: The Importance of Managing Student Expectations.” Journal of Marketing Education 28, no. 3: 254–64. https://doi.org/10.1177/0273475306293359.
Arao, Brian, and Kristi Clemens. 2013. “From Safe Spaces to Brave Spaces: A New Way to Frame Dialogue Around Diversity and Social Justice.” In The Art of Effective Facilitation: Reflections From Social Justice Educators, edited by L. M. Landreman, 135–50. Virginia: Stylus Publishing.
Australian Government. 2013. Australian Government Guidelines on the Recognition of Sex and Gender. 1–11. https://www.ag.gov.au/Publications/Pages/AustralianGovernmentGuidelinesontheRecognitionofSexandGender.aspx.
Belet, Margot. 2018. “The Importance of Relevance to Student Lives: The Impact of Content and Media in Introduction to Sociology.” Teaching Sociology 46, no. 3: 208–24. https://doi.org/10.1177/0092055x17730113.
Braun, Virginia, and Victoria Clarke. 2006. “Using Thematic Analysis in Psychology.” Qualitative Research in Psychology 3, no. 2: 77–101. http://dx.doi.org/10.1191/1478088706qp063oa.
Carrington, Kerry, and Angela Pratt,. 2003. “How Far Have We Come?: Gender Disparities in the Australian Higher Education System.” Department of the Parliamentary Library Canberra, 31.
Cassese, Erin. C., Angela L. Bos, and Lauren E. Duncan, 2012. “Integrating Gender into the Political Science Core Curriculum.” PS:—Political Science and Politics. 45, no. 2: 238–43.
Chi-Yan, Tsui, and David F. Treagust. 2004. “Motivational Aspects of Learning Genetics with Interactive Multimedia.” The American Biology Teacher 66, no. 4: 277–85. https://doi.org/10.2307/4451670.
Cook-Sather, Alison, Catherine Bovill, and Peter Felten. 2014. “Engaging Students as Partners in Learning and Teaching: A Guide for Faculty.” Edited by Maryellen Weimer. San Francisco, CA: Josey-Bass.
Cook-Sather, Alison. 2016. “Creating Brave Spaces within and through Student-Faculty Pedagogical Partnerships.” Teaching & Learning Together in Higher Education 18.
Cruce, Ty M., Gregory C. Wolniak, Tricia A. Seifert, and Ernest T. Pascarella. 2006. “Impacts of Good Practices on Cognitive Development, Learning Orientations, and Graduate Degree Plans During the First Year of College.” Journal of College Student Development 47, no. 4: 365–83. https://doi.org/10.1353/csd.2006.0042.
Curry-Stevens, Ann. 2003. “An Educator’s Guide for Changing the World: Methods, Models and Materials for Anti-Oppression and Social Justice Workshops.” Center for Social Justice. http://www.socialjustice.org/uploads/pubs/EducatorsGuideforChangingtheWorld.pdf.
Dare, Emily, Dave Rafferty, Elizabeth Scheidel, and Gillian Roehrig. 2017. “Flood Rescue: A Gender-Inclusive Integrated STEM Curriculum Unit.” K-12 STEM Education, 3, no. 2: 193–203.
Driver, Rosalind, John Learch, Robin Millar, and Phil Scott, 1996. Young People’s Images of Science. Buckingham: Open University Press.
Felten, Peter, Julianne Bagg, Michael Bumbry, Jennifer Hill, Karen Hornsby, Maria Pratt and Saranne Weller. 2013. “A Call for Expanding Inclusive Student Engagement in SoTL.” Teaching & Learning Inquiry 1, no. 2: 63–74.
Felten, Peter. 2013. “Principles of Good Practice in SoTL.” Teaching & Learning Inquiry, 1, no. 1: 121–25.
Finley, Ashley, and Tia McNair. 2013. Assessing Underserved Students’ Engagement in High-Impact Practices. In Association of American Colleges and Universities. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.
Fisher, Kathleen. M., James H. Wandersee, and David E. Moody, 2000. “The Nature of Biology Knowledge.” In K. M. Fisher, J. H. Wandersee, and D. E. Moody (Eds.), Mapping Biology Knowledge. New York, NY: Springer Netherlands. 25–38.
Hamdan, Amani K. 2009. “Reflexivity of Discomfort in Insider-Outsider Educational Research.” McGill Journal of Education, 44, no. 3, 377-404. https://doi.org/10.7202/039946ar.
Hassold, Terry, and Patricia Hunt. 2001. To Err (Meiotically) is Human: the Genesis of Human Aneuploidy. Nature Reviews Genetics 2, no. 4: 28091.
Higher Education Today. 2018. “Meeting the Needs of Underserved Students.” American Council on Education. Accessed 17 May 2020. https://www.higheredtoday.org/policy-research/meeting-needs-underserved-students/.
Hughes, Gwyneth. 2001. “Exploring the Availability of Student Scientist Identities within Curriculum Discourse: An Anti-essentialist Approach to Gender-inclusive Science.” Gender and Education 13, no. 3: 275–90. https://doi.org/10.1080/09540250120063562.
Hutchings, Pat. 2000. Introduction: Approaching the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning. Edited by Pat Hutchings, Opening lines: Approaches to the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning. Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
Hyde, Janet, Shibley, Rebecca S. Bigler, Daphna Joel, Charlotte Chucky Tate, and Sari M. van Anders. 2019. “The Future of Sex and Gender in Psychology: Five Challenges to the Gender Binary.” American Psychologist 74, no. 2: 17193. https://doi.org/10.1037/amp0000307.
Jester, Natalie. 2018. “Representation within Higher Education Curricula: Contextualising and Advocating for Feminist Digital Activism.” Teaching in Higher Education 23, no. 5: 606–18. https://doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2018.1465036.
Johnson, India R., Evava S. Pietri, Felicia Fullilove, and Samantha Mowrer. 2019. “Exploring Identity-Safety Cues and Allyship Among Black Women Students in STEM Environments.” Psychology of Women Quarterly 43, no. 2: 131–50. https://doi.org/10.1177/0361684319830926.
Kember, David, and Paul Ginns. 2012. Evaluating Teaching & Learning. London: Routledge.
Koppi, Tony, Judy Sheard, Fazel Naghdy, Sylvia L. Edwards, and Wayne Brookes. 2010. “Towards a Gender Inclusive Information and Communications Technology Curriculum: a Perspective from Graduates in the Workforce.” Computer Science Education 20, no. 4: 265–82. https://doi.org/10.1080/08993408.2010.527686.
Koppi, Tony, Madeleine Roberts, and Golshah Naghdy,. 2012. “Perceptions of a Gender-inclusive Curriculum amongst Australian Information and Communications Technology Academics.” Conferences in Research and Practice in Information Technology Series 123: 7–14.
Korolczuk, Elżbieta, and Agnieszka Graff. 2018. “Gender as ‘Ebola from Brussels’: The Anti-colonial Frame and the Rise of Illiberal Populism.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 43, no. 4: 797–21. https://doi.org/10.1086/696691.
Kuh, George, Ken O’Donnell, and Carol Geary Schneider. 2017. “HIPs at Ten.” Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning 49, no. 5: 8–16. https://doi.org/10.1080/00091383.2017.1366805.
Ladson-Billings, Gloria. 1995. “But That’s Just Good Teaching! The Case for Culturally Relevant Pedagogy.” Theory into Practice 34, no. 3: 159–65.
Long, Sam. 2019. “Growing a Gender-Inclusive Biology Curriculum: A Framework and Reflections for Secondary Science Teachers.” The Assembly: A Journal for Public Scholarship on Education 2: 5–10.
Luders, Eileen, Francisco J. Sánchez, Christian Gaser, Arthur W. Toga, Katherine L. Narr, Liberty S. Hamilton, and Eric Vilain. 2009. “Regional Gray Matter Variation in Male-to-Female Transsexualism.” NeuroImage, 46, no. 4: 904–907. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.03.048.
Mercer-Mapstone, Lucy, and Gina Mercer. 2018. “A Dialogue Between Partnership and Feminism: Deconstructing Power and Exclusion in Higher Education.” Teaching in Higher Education 23, no. 1: 137–43. https://doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2017.1391198.
Mercer-Mapstone, Lucy, and Catherine Bovill. 2020. “Equity and Diversity in Institutional Approached to Student-Staff Partnership Schemes in Higher Education.” Studies in Higher Education 45, no. 12: 2541–57. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2019.1620721.
Miller, Abby, Katherine Valle, and Jennifer Engle. 2014 Access to Attainment: An Access Agenda for 21st Century College Students. Institute for Higher Education Policy.
Nicolazzo, Z. 2014a. “Celluloid Marginalization: Pedagogical Strategies for Increasing Students’ Critical Thought Through the Multiple (Re)Readings of Trans* Subjectivities in Film.” Journal of LGBT Youth 11, no. 1: 20–39. https://doi.org/10.1080/19361653.2014.840762.
Nicolazzo, Z. 2014b. “Couldn’t I be Both Fred and Ginger?”: Teaching About Nonbinary Identities Through Memoir.” Journal of LGBT Youth 11, no. 2: 171–75. https://doi.org/10.1080/19361653.2013.878860.
Parker, Lesley H., and Léonie J. Rennie. 2002. “Teachers’ Implementation of Gender-Inclusive Instructional Strategies in Single-Sex and Mixed-Sex Science Classrooms.” International Journal of Science Education 24, no. 9: 881–97. https://doi.org/10.1080/09500690110078860.
Passarge, Eberhard. 2017.”Color Atlas of Genetics.” Stuttgart: Thieme Medical Publishers. https://doi.org/10.1136/jmg.33.9.807-b.
Rametti, Giuseppina, Beatriz Carrillo, Esther Gómez-Gil, Carme Junque, Santiago Segovia, Angel Gomez, and Antonio Guillamon. 2011. “White Matter Microstructure in Female to Male Transsexuals before Dross-Sex Hormonal Treatment. A Diffusion Tensor Imaging Study.” Journal of Psychiatric Research 45, no. 2: 199–204. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2010.05.006.
Rendon, Laura I., and Richard O. Hope. 1996. Educating a New Majority: Transforming America’s Educational System for Diversity. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
R Core Team. 2019. R: A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing (Version 3.6.1) [Computer software]. R Foundation for Statistical Computing.
RStudio Team. 2015. RStudio: Integrated Development for R (Version 1.2.5001) [Computer software]. RStudio, Inc.
Seidman, Alan. 2012. College Student Retention: Formula for Student Success. New York: American Council on Education.
Seymour, Elaine, and Nancy Hewitt. 2000. Talking About Leaving: Why Undergraduates Leave the Sciences: Westview Press.
Schultz, Madeleine. 2014. “Teaching and Assessing Ethics and Social Responsibility in Undergraduate Science: A Position Paper.” Journal of Learning Design, 7, no. 2: 136–47.
Smith, Jessi L., Ian M. Handley, Alexander V. Zale, Sara Rushing, and Martha A. Potvin. 2015. “Now Hiring! Empirically Testing a Three-Step Intervention to Increase Faculty Gender Diversity in STEM.” BioScience 65, no. 11: 1084–87. https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biv138.
Smith, Michelle K., and William B. Wood. 2016. “Teaching Genetics: Past, Present and Future” Genetics 2016, no. 1: 5–10. https://doi.org/10.1534/genetics.116.187138.
Snapp, Shannon D., Hilary Burdge, Adela C. Licona, Raymond L. Moody, and Stephen T. Russell. 2015. “Students’ Perspectives on LGBTQ-Inclusive Curriculum.” Equity and Excellence in Education 48, no. 2: 249–65. https://doi.org.10.1080/10665684.2015.1025614.
Strayhorn, Terrell L. 2012. College Students’ Sense of Belonging: A Key to Educational Success for All Students. Oxfordshire, UK: Routledge.
Theobald, Elli J., Mariah J. Hill, Elisa Tran, Sweta Agrawal, E. Nicole Arroyo, Shawn Behling, Nyasha Chambwe, Dianne Laboy Cintrón, Jacob D. Cooper, Gideon Dunster, Jared A. Grummer, Kelly Hennessey, Jennifer Hsiao, Nicole Iranon, Leonard Jones, Hannah Jordt, Marlowe Keller, Melissa E. Lacey, Caitlin E. Littlefield, Alexander Lowe, Shannon Newman, Vera Okolo, Savannah Olroyd, Brandon R. Peecook, Sarah B. Pickett, David L. Slager, Itzue W. Caviedes-Solis, Kathryn E. Stanchak, Vasudha Sundaravardan, Camila Valdebenito, Claire R. Williams, Kaitlin Zinsli, and Scott Freeman. 2020. “Active Learning Narrows Achievement Gaps for Underrepresented Students in Undergraduate Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: 201916903. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1916903117.
Varsavsky, Cristina, Kelly E. Matthews, and Yvonne Hodgson. 2013. “Perceptions of Science Graduating Students on their Learning Gains.” International Journal of Science Education 36, no: 6: 929–51. https://doi.org/10.1080/09500693.2013.830795.
Wood, Julia T. 2013. Gendered Lives: Communication, Gender, and Culture (10th ed., International ed.). Wadsworth: Cengage Learning.
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2021 Lucy Mercer-Mapstone, Sarah Bajan, Kasia Banas, Arthur Morphett, Kristine McGrath
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.