Gender differences in students' experiences, interests, and attitudes toward science and scientists



The purpose of this study was to examine sixth grade students' attitudes and experiences related to science. The study involved 437 students who completed a survey designed to elicit students' perceptions of science and scientists, out-of-school science experiences, science topics of interest, and characteristics of future jobs. Results showed that for this sample there continue to be significant gender differences in science experiences, attitudes, and perceptions of science courses and careers. Males reported more extracurricular experiences with a variety of tools such as batteries, electric toys, fuses, microscopes, and pulleys. Females reported more experiences with bread-making, knitting, sewing, and planting seeds. More male than female students indicated they were interested in atomic bombs, atoms, cars, computers, x-rays, and technology, whereas more females reported interest in animal communication, rainbows, healthy eating, weather, and AIDS. In addition, when asked about future jobs, male and female students' responses differed by gender. Males saw variables such as controlling other people, becoming famous, earning lots of money, and having a simple and easy job as important. Females, more than males, wanted to “help other people.” Students' perceptions of science showed that significantly more females than males reported that science was difficult to understand, whereas more males reported that science was destructive and dangerous, as well as more “suitable” for boys. © 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Sci Ed84:180–192, 2000.