Academic engagement and science achievement: A gendered relationship? (2010)
The 2002 School Achievement Indicators Program Science (SAIP-SCIENCE) survey, administered to a national sample of Canadian youth aged 13 to 16, showed girls performing significantly below boys in the application of scientific knowledge to everyday problems. On the other hand, girls get higher teacher-assigned grades than boys in their science classes.
The authors of this paper note that girls’ superior performance in science classrooms may be due to teachers’ marking practices, which reward not only cognitive achievement but also social behaviour, like the compliance with rules and completion of homework.
However, it would be expected that the study efforts of girls would lead not just to higher teacher-assigned grades but also to higher scientific literacy scores. The authors’ goal is to look at why girls’ greater investments in homework do not result in higher literacy scores.
While many girls respond well to the current curriculum, others do not, and for them, changes in the curriculum or teaching methods may help, the authors point out. As well, it is possible that boys performed well on the literacy test because their leisure time activities offer more opportunity to explore and apply science-related activities.
The gap in science literacy scores between boys and girls is not a wide one, the authors note. However, if that gap is discouraging girls from continuing their science studies, then further attention to this matter is needed.