24 SES 14 JS, STEM, Gender and Achievement in Schools
Joint Paper Session NW 14 and NW 24
The present research examines the possibility to predict the level of gender-STEM stereotyped beliefs among boys and girls from their experience with STEM-related school subjects (prior achievement and interest) in a new EU member country, Croatia.
Women are still dramatically underrepresented in occupations regarding physical sciences (31%), computer and information sciences (24%) and engineering (15%), although they are better represented life sciences (48%) and even mathematics (42%, National Science Board [NSB], 2016; National Science Foundation [NSF], 2013). However, in most countries, there are no gender differences in science and math achievement between boys and girls, based on international PISA (OECD, 2016) and TIMSS (Mullis et al., 2016) studies. Indeed, research indicates that the gender gap in STEM fields cannot be accounted for by differences in prior achievement (Riegle-Crumb, King, Grodsky, & Muller, 2012). So if girls achieve at comparable levels to boys in STEM fields, why do they chose STEM-related careers much less frequently?
Studies show that girls have less interest for STEM school subjects and express less positive attitudes towards these subjects and STEM fields in general (American Association of University Women [AAUW], 1991, 1992; Brandell & Staberg, 2008; Catsambis, 1995). Interst, in turn, is related to career choice (Cheryan & Plaut, 2010). Moreover, boys participate in more science related activities at school and at home and have higher science self-efficacy (OECD, 2016). These differences can at least partly be explained in relation to sociocultural factors such as gender stereotypes about male superiority in math and science (Brandell & Staberg, 2008; Cvencek, Meltzoff & Greenwald, 2011; Nosek et al., 2009). It is believed that internalization of these gender stereotypes is related to women's interest for STEM fields and their choice of related careers (e.g., Schmader, Johns, & Barquissau, 2004).
Croatia has recently joined the European Union and represents a region in which not much research has been conducted about STEM gender stereotypes, although some data is available regarding mathematics. Mathematics seems not to be viewed as more appropriate for boys than for girls in among Croatian pupils (Pavlin-Bernardić, Ravić & Borović, 2012; Pavlin-Bernardić, Vlahović-Štetić & Mišurac Zorica, 2010). However, a more complete assessment is necessary, taking into account other STEM-related fields. Therefore, the first objective of the present research is to verify whether Croatian elementary school pupils endorse gender-STEM stereotypes, in relation to several STEM-related fields. Based on previous research on mathematics, it can be hypothesized that such beliefs are weak in this population. The second objective was to explore to what extent these stereotyped beliefs are related to pupils’ experience with STEM-related school subjects; specifically, their prior achievement and their interest in these subjects, as a function of gender. While most previous research focuses on how achievement and career choice can be accounted for by stereotyped beliefs, here we asked the reverse question: to what extent can we account for stereotyped beliefs by prior achievement and interest in STEM school subjects? It was hypothesized that both prior achievement and interest in STEM-related school subject would interact with gender to predict gender-STEM stereotype endorsement. More precisely, prior achievement and interest were predicted to be negatively related to stereotype endorsement among girls, and positively related to stereotype endorsement among boys. Indeed, we expected those who displayed a stereotype-consistent achievement pattern in STEM subjects (girls with low and boys with high performance) to have stronger gender-STEM stereotypes, because such beliefs are consistent with their personal history. Similarly, pupils whose interest in STEM subjects was stereotype-consistent (girls uninterested and boys interested in these fields) were expected to have relatively stronger stereotyped beliefs.
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