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Gender Differences in Physics 1: The Impact of a Self-Affirmation Intervention Documents

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Gender Differences in Physics 1: The Impact of a Self-Affirmation Intervention 

written by Lauren E. Kost-Smith, Steven J. Pollock, Noah D. Finkelstein, Geoffrey L. Cohen, Tiffany A. Ito, and Akira Miyake

Prior work at CU-Boulder has shown that a gender gap (difference in male and female performance) exists in both the pre- and post-course conceptual surveys, despite the use of interactive engagement techniques [Kost, et al., PRST-PER 5, 010101]. A potential explanation for this persistent gap is that stereotype threat, the fear of confirming a stereotype about one self, is inhibiting females' performance. Prior research has demonstrated that stereotype threat can be alleviated through the use of self-affirmation, a process of affirming one's overall self-worth and integrity [Cohen, et al., Science 313, 1307]. We report results of a randomized experiment testing the impact of a self-affirmation exercise on the gender gap in Physics 1. The gender gap on a conceptual post-survey is reduced from 19% for students who did not affirm their own values, to 9% for students who completed two 15-minute self-affirmation exercises at the beginning of the semester.

Published August 24, 2010
Last Modified January 7, 2011

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