Gendered differences in the “leaky STEM pipeline” start in the early grades. One explanation may be the implicit biases teachers hold regarding who does and does not belong in STEM disciplines. As a result, many teacher preparation programs provide pre-service teachers opportunities to discuss and confront their implicit biases. However, individuals do not always respond positively to these opportunities. The nature of this defensive response needs to be examined to support pre-service educators in confronting implicit gender biases so they can provide all students access to high quality STEM careers.
In this pilot study, we examined pre-service teachers’ (n = 20) electrodermal activity, a physiological indicator of sympathetic nervous system arousal, during both the Gender/STEM implicit association test and a control activity. Our findings suggest that participants found it more cognitively demanding to associate “Female” with “Science” than to associate “Males” with “Science,” that they experienced a greater physiological stress response while receiving feedback on their implicit biases than at baseline, and that the difference in both factors related to their scores on the IAT. These findings are a first step towards understanding and overcoming the barriers preservice teachers face when confronting these biases.