Donnalee Rubin examines the responses of thirty-one freshman composition teachers to student writing and shows the negative effects of gender bias on assessment to prove that gender perceptions and expectations can influence assessment decisions that seem neutral on the surface. Arguing that certain pedagogies are more likely to minimize gender bias than others, Rubin believes that teachers are more likely to overcome the influence of gender bias on their teaching if they adopt a process-based method and work intimately with their students through nondirective, supportive conferences.
Rubin characterizes the conference/process-centered class as the type of environment in which maternal teaching can be cultivated. She stresses that maternal can describe any teacher, male or female, who exhibits the nurturing and supportive qualities that the conference/process approach embodies. With a primary focus on the student’s well-being and development as a person and a writer, the maternal teacher is in a better position to overcome gender bias that could distort the interpretation of student texts. In order for writing instructors to increase their sensitivity to gender issues in assessment, Rubin recommends that they self-consciously engage in what she calls "responsive reading." Responsive reading occurs when the teacher reads with an eye toward providing the sorts of supportive feedback and dialectic exchange that will encourage student writers to think for themselves and to revise effectively. Rubin argues that when teachers commit to a responsive-reading pedagogy, they are more likely to question their reactions to student writing along the lines of gender influence and to strive for self-conscious awareness of how their own inner male-female voices may distort their reading of student texts. She challenges all writing teachers to become more aware of the inevitable challenge gender influence presents.