The high school experience plays a major role in the shaping of a confident woman. Because adolescence is a particularly challenging time, often the presentation of the self is not authentic and can be displayed differently depending on the context associated with a given role. The loss of voice is particularly problematic for female adolescents. Prior to becoming adolescents, girls are able to express themselves with confidence. With the onset of adolescence, it is common for girls to suppress their feelings, cover up what they knew as young children, diminish themselves and suppress their voice. Margaret Mead, in describing what she observed across cultures said that so many gifts are unused and unappreciated for women in western culture. She observed that women's voices are stilled.
This research, examines the support for girls' voices in a high school setting in order to answer five questions: (1) In the school setting, in which area of an adolescent girl's life is she most likely to feel free to express her true opinions? (2) In the school setting, is an adolescent girl's voice more likely to be stifled in some content areas and subject matter rather than in others? (3) In the school setting, what is the link between teacher's pedagogy and adolescent girls' voices? (4) In the school setting, what is the link between teacher's behavior and students' perceptions? (5) In the school setting, what interventions can be utilized by teachers to encourage adolescent girls to confidently express their opinions?
This qualitative study employed the method of educational criticism. I viewed the lives of four students for three days each, attending all of their classes and extracurricular activities. I also interviewed these students prior to the shadowing process and informally during the shadowing process.
The study resulted in several important findings. First, the structural dimension of the school is critical to support for voice and student success. Several aspects of the school's structure impact students expression of voice including: a healthy culture, strong leadership, an authentic social climate, respect for individuals, an organized, and safe physical environment, effective communication and an organized transition to life after high school. The second emergent theme is that pedagogy plays a major role in the shaping of confident young women. When pedagogy matters there is a strong emphasis on learning, teachers act as guides in the learning process, there is an emphasis on a high standard of excellence, teachers support voice with a safe, yet urgent classroom environment, thus developing confidence and competence in learning. A strong curriculum is the third theme, which includes diverse academic and extra-curricular offerings. The three themes identified above were integrated into a Radar Chart of the School's Culture. The fourth theme emphasizes the girls' intentions, i.e. what they expect from their schooling experience.