Gender roles and science beliefs and their relationship to science interest

Judith Jean Paolucci, University of Rhode Island


This study investigated adolescents' views about the nature of science (NOS) and conceptions of their gender identities, and revealed whether these conceptions and views are related to their science interest. Participants were 566 high school students enrolled in chemistry courses at three high schools in a New England state. A questionnaire was used to assess participants' science interest, gender role perceptions, and views about science, as well as to provide background and math and science achievement data.

The study found that while student scores of NOS understanding did not differ by gender, some significant differences were noted on the student responses to statements about science. Students with higher-than-average science interest scores responded to these statements differently than students with lower science interest scores; their responses tended to more closely match statements about NOS taken from current reform documents. The study also found that math and science achievement, masculinity scores, and NOS scores accounted for a greater variance of science interest for girls than for boys, though all three also contributed significantly and positively to the regression equation for boys. These predictor variables predicted membership to the lower or higher science interest groups, but could not predict students' career aspiration groups. Thus, other mediating factors not considered in this study may translate high science interest to science career aspiration. The results of this study coed prior research, which found that science and math achievement and masculinity are positively and significantly related to science interest for boy boys and girls. Moreover, the study found that achievement in math and science courses is a greater predictor of science interest for girls than for boys.

The results of this study provide a rationale for incorporating the nature of science into the science curriculum. Moreover, since the science interest of boys was also found to be related to NOS understanding, these curricular changes may positively affect all students.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Judith Jean Paolucci, "Gender roles and science beliefs and their relationship to science interest" (2001). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3025542.