When being a girl matters less: Accessibility of gender-related knowledge in single-sex and coeducational classes and its impact on students’ physics-related self-concept of ability

Freie Universitaet Berlin, FB Psychology and Educational Studies, Germany.
British Journal of Educational Psychology (Impact Factor: 2). 07/2008; 78(Pt 2):273-89. DOI: 10.1348/000709907X215938
Source: PubMed


Establishing or preserving single-sex schooling has been widely discussed as a way of bringing more girls into the natural sciences.
We test the assumption that the beneficial effects of single-sex education on girls' self-concept of ability in masculine subjects such as physics are due to the lower accessibility of gender-related self-knowledge in single-sex classes.
N=401 eighth-graders (mean age 14.0 years) from coeducational comprehensive schools.
Random assignment of students to single-sex vs. coeducational physics classes throughout the eighth grade. At the end of the year, students' physics-related self-concept of ability was measured using a questionnaire. In a subsample of N=134 students, the accessibility of gender-related self-knowledge during physics classes was assessed by measuring latencies and endorsement of sex-typed trait adjectives.
Girls from single-sex physics classes reported a better physics-related self-concept of ability than girls from coeducational classes, while boys' self-concept of ability did not vary according to class composition. For both boys and girls, gender-related self-knowledge was less accessible in single-sex classes than in mixed-sex classes. To the extent that girls' feminine self-knowledge was relatively less accessible than their masculine self-knowledge, their physics-related self-concept of ability improved at the end of the school year.
By revealing the importance of the differential accessibility of gender-related self-knowledge in single- and mixed-sex settings, our study clarifies why single-sex schooling helps adolescents to gain a better self-concept of ability in school subjects that are considered inappropriate for their own sex.

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    • "Recently , following research that showed that single - sex education ameliorates girls ' performance , a call has surfaced to implement single - sex education for boys as well , in order to counter the latter ' s underachievement ( Warrington and Younger 2001 ) . However , our findings seem to endorse the viewpoint that coeducation seems to be the best way of organising schools for boys ( Kessels and Hannover 2008 ; Lavy and Schlosser 2011 ; Lee and Bryk 1986 ; Van Houtte 2004 ) . The presence of girls at school may encourage boys to underscore school values and conform to school rules , thereby counteracting the influence of the ' laddish ' culture ( Jackson 2002 ; Warrington , Younger , and Williams 2000 ) . "
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    Gender and Education 07/2013; 25(4):466-485. DOI:10.1080/09540253.2013.772567 · 0.46 Impact Factor
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    • "In a randomized experiment, Kessels and Hannover (2008) show that girls reported a significantly higher self-concept of physics-ability after being taught in single-sex classes. About 400 students in Berlin were randomly assigned to mixed and singlesex classes in physics throughout the 8 th grade. "
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    ABSTRACT: Gender segregation in the labor market may be explained by women's reluctance to choose technical occupations, although the foundations for career choices are certainly laid earlier, during education. Educational experts claim that female students are doing better in math and science and are more likely to choose those subjects if they are in single-sex classes. Possible explanations are the lack of self-confidence of girls in male-dominated subjects, the dominating behavior of boys in the classroom and unequal treatment by teachers. In this paper, we identify the causal impact of gender composition in coeducational classes on the choice of school type for female students. We propose that girls are less likely to choose a female-dominated school type at the age of 14 after spending the previous years in classes with a higher share of female students. We address the problem of endogenous school choice by using natural variation in gender composition of adjacent cohorts within schools. The results are clear-cut and survive powerful falsification and sensitivity checks: Females are less likely to choose a female-dominated school type and more likely to choose the technical school type if they were exposed to a higher share of girls in previous grades. Our paper contributes to the recent debate about coeducation either in certain subjects or at the school level.
    Economics of Education Review 08/2012; 31(4):482-500. DOI:10.1016/j.econedurev.2011.11.002 · 1.07 Impact Factor
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    • "Of particular interest for the design of our investigation is the study by Kessels and Hannover (2008) who show in a field experiment that single-sex education in physics improves girls' self-concept of ability. Kessels and Hannover's study does, however, not investigate how single-sex education affects the students' development of cognitive skills. "
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