June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
Women in Engineering
This study analyzes correlations between the gender of engineering students and their instructors and student perceptions, interactions, and successes in a general chemistry course for freshman engineers. Previous studies have shown that female engineering students are, in general, more comfortable seeking help than their male counterparts. Female students are also more likely to seek supplemental instruction (SI), including attending lecturer and TA office hours and lecturer-led reviews. As retention of female students is a critical initiative for undergraduate engineering programs, understanding the motivation of students to utilize, or not utilize, SI resources is important to improving student and program success.
The data for this study are based on students enrolled in a required fall-semester general chemistry course for freshman engineers at Northeastern University. Thirteen instructors, consisting of three male and one female lecturers and seven male and two female TAs, served as providers of SI. More than 400 students (~25% female) were surveyed after completing this course in Fall 2015 about their attitudes toward their lecturers and TAs, including approachability, competence, intimidation, and trust. This study seeks to understand the basis for these findings and the impact that lecturer and TA gender has on use of SI and subsequent student success.
This study shows that the instructor gender had a statistically significant impact on the reported comfort of a student with and perceived competence of an instructor. Female students reported less comfort with male instructors, while male students reported that they perceived female instructors to have a lower level of competency. Despite these findings, less than 1% of students reported that the gender of an instructor affected their use of SI. It was found, however, that students, especially female students, more often reported that they found their male instructors to be more intimidating than female instructors. It was also found that students who had reported having an intimidating male instructor were less likely to seek SI. As shown in previous studies, use of SI has had a positive impact on student performance in a course. Therefore it is possible that the gender of a student and their instructor could impact overall student performance.
Kaeli, E., & Cole, T. B., & Priem, B. J., & Shapiro, R. L., & DiMilla, P., & Reisberg, R. (2017, June), Impact of Instructor Gender on Student Performance and Attitudes in a Chemistry Course for Freshman Engineers Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28466
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