Do You Stand Out? Perceptions of Ability, Work Ethic, and Participation in College STEM Classes

Amy Roberson Hayes, Kristin J. Hixson, Stephanie L. Masters


Research has shown female students consistently under-rate their performance and ability in STEM classes relative to their male peers, and that the converse is true for male students (Grusnpan, Eddy, Brownell, Wiggins, Crowe & Goodreau, 2016). Our study examines the possible gender-differentiated experiences of students in college STEM courses. Participants included 192 U.S. undergraduate students (133 female, 59 male). Students completed an online survey which asked them to rate their experiences in their most recent college science, mathematics, and social science classes. Results showed that the grade students received in their most recent class was the variable most predictive of ability and work ethic perceptions, across disciplines.  There were no gender differences in course grade or perceptions of ability in math and science classes, although women ranked themselves significantly higher than men did in terms of work ethic across all three subject areas. Individual motivation factors such as mastery orientation were not related to perceptions of ability in any field but did predict students’ perception of their work ethic.  Finally, there were no effects of the gender composition of the course on students’ perceptions of classroom experiences across disciplines.


ability; motivation; performance; science; mathematics; social science

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