Science education: Adult biases because of the child's gender and gender stereotypicality

Carol Newall, Karen Gonsalkorale, Ellen Walker, G. Anne Forbes, Kate Highfield, Naomi Sweller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


A child's gender, specifically being a girl, is often thought to play a causal role in diminishing educational opportunities in science. However, few studies have experimentally manipulated the child's gender to examine this issue. To this end, the current study manipulated the child's gender and gender stereotypicality to investigate their impact on adults’ perceptions of the child's science ability and enjoyment, and the delivery of scientific content during a teaching module. Eighty-one university students (65 women, Mage = 23.60 years) were given a fictional profile of an 8-year-old child with the task of teaching that child over Skype. Each child's fictional profile was experimentally manipulated for gender (boy or girl) and gender stereotypicality (either gender typical or gender ambiguous). Results revealed that participants rated girls as less academically capable than boys in physics, and delivered less scientific information during a teaching module when they believed they were teaching a girl. Gender stereotypic girls were perceived as being the least likely to enjoy science. These findings are unique because they demonstrate clear educational disadvantages for girls because of their gender or stereotypicality. The results are discussed in terms of implications for gender equity in science education.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-41
Number of pages12
JournalContemporary Educational Psychology
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018
Externally publishedYes


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