Assessing does not mean threatening: The purpose of assessment as a key determinant of girls' and boys' performance in a science class




Is it possible to reach performance equality between boys and girls in a science class? Given the stereotypes targeting their groups in scientific domains, diagnostic contexts generally lower girls' performance and non-diagnostic contexts may harm boys' performance.


The present study tested the effectiveness of a mastery-oriented assessment, allowing both boys and girls to perform at an optimal level in a science class.


Participants were 120 boys and 72 girls (all high-school students).


Participants attended a science lesson while expecting a performance-oriented assessment (i.e., an assessment designed to compare and select students), a mastery-oriented assessment (i.e., an assessment designed to help students in their learning), or no assessment of this lesson.


In the mastery-oriented assessment condition, both boys and girls performed at a similarly high level, whereas the performance-oriented assessment condition reduced girls' performance and the no-assessment condition reduced boys' performance.


One way to increase girls' performance on a science test without harming boys' performance is to present assessment as a tool for improving mastery rather than as a tool for comparing performances.