AWE Literature Overview

Gender Differences in Science Achievement -- Abstract

The purpose of this literature overview is to facilitate access to current statistical data related to gender differences in science achievement among K-16 students to help inform discussions and initiatives related to addressing the gender gap in science, technology, engineering, and mathematic (STEM) fields. The information sheet that accompanies this literature overview focuses on applying trends related to science achievement among males and females for use by instructional professionals in the K-16 setting and organizations offering STEM programs, including STEM educational outreach activities or gender-based initiatives within the educational setting.

Attrition from STEM fields is disproportionately high for women.  The pipeline into STEM disciplines and related occupations has been leaking from high school through degree attainment. Females also leave careers in STEM at a higher rate than male counterparts (National Science Foundation, 2005; Trenor, 2007). The science achievement of males and females has been examined to offer plausible explanations for the gender gap in STEM disciplines (National Assessment of Educational Progress [NAEP], 2005). The most recent results from national standardized assessments show that males continue to perform at higher rates with regard to science achievement, particularly in high school and once enrolled in college (NAEP, 2005; National Educational Longitudinal Survey, 2004). However, in terms of course taking patterns females enroll in and complete comparable levels of advanced science courses at rates similar to or greater than their male peers (Ingels & Dalton, 2008). Differences in science achievement between males and females have been consistent internationally and over time (Gonzales, Williams, Jocelyn, Roey, Kastberg, & Brenwald, 2008; NAEP, 2005). Gender gaps in science achievement at the K-12 level have been linked to fewer females choosing to pursue a postsecondary degree in STEM fields (Madigan, 1997; National Science Foundation, 2005). Consideration should be given to the definition of science achievement used in this literature overview.

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Funded by The National Science Foundation (HRD 0120642 and HRD 0607081)