How can we enhance girls’ interest in scientific topics?
Article first published online: 5 FEB 2011
©2011 The British Psychological Society
British Journal of Educational Psychology
Volume 81, Issue 4, pages 606–628, December 2011
How to Cite
Kerger, S., Martin, R. and Brunner, M. (2011), How can we enhance girls’ interest in scientific topics?. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 81: 606–628. doi: 10.1111/j.2044-8279.2011.02019.x
- Issue published online: 3 NOV 2011
- Article first published online: 5 FEB 2011
- Received 21 April 2009; revised version received 1 December 2010
Background. Girls are considerably less interested in scientific subjects than boys. One reason may be that scientific subjects are considered to be genuinely masculine. Thus, being interested in science may threaten the self-perception of girls as well as the femininity of their self-image.
Aims. If scientific topics that are considered to be stereotypically feminine were chosen, however, this potential threat might be overcome which, in turn, might lead to an increase in girls’ interest in science. This hypothesis was empirically tested by means of two studies.
Sample. Participants were 294 (Study 1) and 190 (Study 2) Grade 8 to Grade 9 students.
Method. Gender differences in students’ interest in masculine and feminine topics were investigated for a range of scientific concepts (Study 1) as well as for a given scientific concept (Study 2) for four scientific subjects (i.e., biology, physics, information technology, and statistics), respectively.
Results. Both studies indicated that the mean level of girls’ scientific interest was higher when scientific concepts were presented in the context of feminine topics and boys’ level of scientific interests was higher when scientific concepts were presented in the context of masculine topics.
Conclusion. Girls’ interest in science could be substantially increased by presenting scientific concepts in the context of feminine topics. Gender differences as well as individual differences in the level of interest in scientific topics may be taken into account by creating learning environments in which students could select the context in which a certain scientific concept is embedded.