An essay is enough to narrow gender-based achievement gap
I love the reasoning behind this study. We know that gender gaps in achievement (and enrollment?) are entirely cultural. So the solution is cultural, and has nothing to do with the topic. Here, an essay in Physics class narrowed the gender gap. Could something like this work in CS, too? (Thanks to Fred Martin for sending this to me!)
A study in last week’s Science describes a program at the University of Colorado, focused on helping to narrow the achievement gap in an introduction to physics class targeted to science majors. In past years, research had found that a strong background and preparation could account for over half the gender difference in test scores, but that still leaves other, substantial factors to explain the discrepancies.
The authors suspected that stereotypes might account for the remaining differences. “The fear of being devalued based on a group identity, such as becoming aware that one could be seen in light of a negative stereotype about one’s group, has been shown to undermine performance on difficult tests,” they explain. “For example, women’s performance on difficult math and science tests can suffer insofar as they worry that their poor performance could be seen to confirm a negative gender stereotype.”
Since the problem wasn’t physics-based, the solution wasn’t either.