The Learning Environment
"There is evidence that when private 4-year women’s colleges were compared with all private 4-year institutions…they conferred upon women equal or larger proportions of bachelor’s degrees in traditionally male-dominated fields than the norm for private 4-year colleges.”
– U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement
“According to a significant body of literature, women’s colleges have demonstrated a positive impact on their women students,” reports Lisa E. Wolf-Wendel in A Closer Look At Women’s Colleges, University of Kansas, July 1999. “Compared to women at coeducational institutions, for example, students at women’s colleges are more satisfied with their overall college experience… are more likely to major in non-traditional fields… and express higher levels of self esteem and leadership skills...
“In addition,” she adds, “students at women’s colleges are more likely to graduate, to have high expectations of themselves, to attend graduate school and to be ‘successful’ in their adult lives… Further, studies that examine the baccalaureate origins of women who have achieved some measurable degree of post-baccalaureate success overwhelmingly find that women’s colleges graduate disproportionate numbers of successful women…
According to Wolf-Wendel’s research, “High expectations, support, presence of role models, critical mass of high achieving students, opportunities for extracurricular involvement, inclusion of women in the curriculum, and a recognition of the social realities facing women in the ‘real world’ are all traits associated with institutions that facilitate the success of their women students.”
Levels of Engagement
“Women attending women’s colleges report higher levels of engagement in a variety of educational experiences and are more engaged in productive activities than women attending co-educational institutions, according to “Women Students at Coeducational and Women’s Colleges: How Do Their Experiences Compare?,” National Survey of Student Engagement, Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research. The study empirically shows that women’s colleges provide an educational experience that is in many ways superior to coeducational institutions.
“What’s more, “For more than two decades, proponents of women’s colleges have asserted that such institutions offer female students a more equitable, and therefore higher quality, developmentally powerful learning environment. Our findings support this claim and plainly indicate that single-sex colleges are not an anachronistic post-secondary option for women.”
In this study, engagement was defined using six scales:
- academic challenge as measured by reading, writing, time and time spent preparing for class
- higher-order thinking as measured by time spent synthesizing ideas, making judgments, applying theories, and analyzing ideas
- integration as measured by activities that foreshadow deep learning, such as discussions of ideas from readings or classes with faculty members or others outside of class, or as working on papers and projects that require integrating ideas or information from various sources
- active and collaborative learning as measured by working with other students in and out of class, asking questions in class, and making class presentations
- student-faculty interaction as measured by a range of contacts inside and outside the classroom
- experiences with diversity as measured by student interactions with people of different backgrounds and a campus-wide emphasis on encouraging these interactions