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Women's Educational Success
is Focus of Crawford's New Book
December 6, 1999

Several decades after scholars first noted a startling difference in girls and boys' educational performance, the gender gap has narrowed but still exists. In an attempt to do away with the gap, educators are continuing to search for ways to help women perform at their best.

In Coming Into Her Own: Educational Success in Girls and Women, experts examine the factors that can influence females' educational performance. The book was co-edited by Mary Crawford, professor of psychology and director of women's studies.

Crawford and her colleagues have a long-standing interest in creating the best possible optimal educational environment for girls and women. The five-part book, published earlier this year, sprang from that interest, Crawford says.

The different sections of the book, each of which contains several chapters, examine women-centered education, restructuring the classroom, transforming math and science, changing individual expectations and creating healthy environments. The chapters were written by specialists in education, psychology and women's studies.

In addition to co-editing the book with Sara N. Davis, associate professor of psychology and women's studies at Rosemont College, and Jadwiga Sebrechts, president of the Women's College Coalition, Crawford co-wrote the chapters "Overcoming Resistance to Feminism in the Classroom" and "College Women and Alcohol Use."

In the latter chapter, Crawford and her co-authors looked at women's drinking patterns at co-ed and women's colleges. Crawford says women who attend all-female colleges are less likely than women at co-ed colleges to be heavy binge drinkers. As a result, students at women's colleges are also less likely to suffer from problems related to binge drinking, such as physical assault, property damage and interruptions to their studies.

Those findings aren't a reason to do away with co-ed colleges but are an example of what educators can learn from examining women's colleges, she says.

Women's campuses are often a good place for educators to look for advice on creating the most favorable educational environments for women, Crawford says. Many co-ed colleges started as men's colleges and later admitted women grudgingly. As a result, co-ed schools tend to work best for men, because their curriculum and co-curricular life were structured around men's developmental patterns.

Turning to women's colleges allows educators to see how women learn in an environment that was created for them, she says. "We can learn from women's schools what happens when women are put first."

The hallmarks of women's colleges include collaborative classrooms, teaching statistics and other subjects in female-friendly ways, and creating institutional climates that are healthy for women, Crawford says. Educators can take lessons like those and apply them to co-ed schools, she adds. "Women's colleges show what makes education work for everybody."

Crawford isn't the only recently published author on the psychology faculty. She recently held a book signing at the Co-op with David Kenny and Felicia Pratto, two other faculty in the six-member social division of the psychology department who have newly published books.

It's a significant accomplishment to write a book, said Charles Lowe, professor and head of the psychology department, at the book signing. "Having three faculty members publish books at the same time is an amazing feat."

Allison Thompson