Research Proposal: Education and Gender

Through exploratory research on various topics influenced by Anne Patchett’s Bel Canto, I have decided to conduct extended research on gender differences in education subjects. Extensive research has been done by various professionals, particularly J.S. Hyde, on the male-favored gender gap in STEM fields. It has been shown that male students are more likely to have a more positive attitude toward math’s usefulness and emotional cost than female students (Dicke, p. 10). Females also generally suffer more anxiety with regard to math and science, which negatively influences their self-confidence and performance in these subjects (Griggs, p. 10). There are various theories concerning causation of this gender gap, such as classroom environment or parent involvement, biological and hormonal influences, and psychological predispositions of boys toward spatial and quantitative thinking (Andrews, p. 10). On the other hand, Stephanie Al Otaiba, her colleagues, and other professionals have found considerable evidence of a female-favored gender gap in reading and writing. Various predictors have been measured, including attentiveness, reading skills, oral skills, and technical writing skills, which have been shown to partly predict male student’s lower performance in writing (Al Otaiba, p. 12).

The main question I have found most pervasive throughout the sources I have read is: What predictors exist that explain these gender gaps, and why do they exist? I hope to consider motivational factors and psychological and social gender differences to answer why these gender gaps exist. I feel that I will most likely find that causation of gender gaps in different subjects will be due to a combination of all of these elements. How can curriculums or approaches to teaching both genders be altered to encourage proficiency in whichever field is typically less excelled in? Moving forward, I would particularly like to answer this question in light of the high variance in male performance. I would hypothesize that a more hands-on and active learning environment would encourage increased male achievement and understanding of material, while a more nurturing educational environment would be best for females.



Al Otaiba, Stephanie, Brandy Gatlin, Young-Suk Kim, and Jeanne Wanzek. “Toward an Understanding of Dimensions, Predictors, and the Gender Gap.” Journal of Educational Psychology. 107.1 (2015): 79 – 95. PsycARTICLES. Web. 12 Oct. 2015.

Andrews, Glenda, David L. Neumann, and David Reilly. “Sex Differences in Mathematics and Science Achievement: A Meta-Analysis of National Assessment of Educational Progress Assessments.” Journal of Educational Psychology. 107.3 (2015): 645 – 662. Ebscohost. Web. 7 Oct. 2015.

Dicke, Anna-Lena, Barbara Flunger, Hanna Gaspard, Isabelle Häfner, Benjamin Nagengast, rigitte Schreier, and Ulrich Trautwein. “More Value through Greater Differentiation: Gender Differences in Value Beliefs about Math.” Journal of Education Psychology. 107.3 (2014): 663 – 677. PsycARTICLES. Web. 7 Oct. 2015.

Griggs, Marissa Swaim, Eileen G. Merritt, Sara E. Rimm-Kaufman, and Christine L. Patton. “The Responsive Classroom Approach and Fifth Grade Students’ Math and Science Anxiety and Self-Efficacy.” School Psychology Quarterly. 28.4 (2013): 360 – 373. PsycARTICLES. Web. 7 Oct. 2015.


One thought on “Research Proposal: Education and Gender

  1. Colin Murphy says:

    Hi Sarah,

    This looks great! I remember your pitching this topic during one of our class discussions, and I’m glad to see you’ve chosen to see how far you can take it. I believe your topic is a perfect balance of specific and focused; you aren’t just focusing on gender differences of students, but gender differences in education. And more importantly, you’re likely to find contradicting research even amongst scholars in the field. It’s an intriguing topic that takes courage to approach – simply because much of the data you find will likely send you down a new path. But all that information should definitely prepare you for forming your own conclusions and “stitching” those resources together nicely by the end of your paper!

    The questions you pose in the second half of your proposal should definitely guide you in the right direction for answering – or at least explaining a possible answer to – your primary research question. Distinguishing the differences between gender identity and biological sex might be another avenue that comes up in your research. Any data you’re able to find on transexual individuals in relation to your topic might be a key in helping you form your conclusion(s). It will be very interesting to see what your research has to say about your hypothesis.

    Again, you’ve a fantastic proposal here! You’ve picked a topic perfect for the type of research we’re conducting this semester with just the right level of specificity. I can’t wait to see where your research will guide you in forming your final conclusion(s).

    – Colin


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