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Gender and Science Learning Early in High School: Subject Matter and Laboratory Experiences

David T. Burkam, Valerie E. Lee and Becky A. Smerdon
American Educational Research Journal
Vol. 34, No. 2 (Summer, 1997), pp. 297-331
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1163360
Page Count: 35
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Gender and Science Learning Early in High School: Subject Matter and Laboratory Experiences
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Abstract

This study used a large and nationally representative, longitudinal database, NELS:88, to identify important factors related to gender differences in 10th-grade science performance. It built on an earlier study focusing on 8th-grade science performance, wherein gender differences were found to be related to (a) subject matter (life versus physical science), (b) student ability level, and (c) frequency of hands-on lab opportunities. The moderate unadjusted advantage for 8th-grade boys on the physical science test widened by the 10th grade. The gender differences were smaller on the life science test and favored males among students of average and above-average ability and females among the less able students. Hands-on lab activities-relatively infrequent in high school science classes-continued to be related to all students' performance, but especially to girls'. These findings suggest the importance of the active involvement of students in the science classroom as a means to promote gender equity. Implications for the underrepresentation of women in physical science careers are discussed.

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