How to improve women's performance in physics through instructing stereotype threat

Abstract

Research into learning physics has repeatedly demonstrated lower motivation and poorer performance for female students than for male students. To attempt to reduce gender differences in strategy use, flow, and performance we used a stereotype threat manipulation. In a 2 x 2-design study (instruction x gender) with 37 11th grade students (20 female) we tested two groups: A control group and a stereotype information group who were told the stereotype was invalid. Both groups had to study a learning program in physics on torque. Pre-tests included prior knowledge and initial motivation. We recorded online exploration behavior to find strategy indicators. After learning, the students took a knowledge test. The results were consistent with our hypothesis: Female students in the stereotype information group reported a higher probability of success compared to females in the control group; they employed more effective strategies, experienced stronger flow, and demonstrated more knowledge. Females in the stereotype information group did not differ from males in either group.


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