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Description: In a post earlier today, I asked readers to consider the individual focus of much of the theory and research in Western Psychology. The article linked below is not a part of that core perspective and provide an alternative way to view and to research issues of gender education, socialization, and science. Before reading the article think about which of the following two approaches would be more likely to increase girls’ interest in science and the possibility that they will see it as a viable direction of study and work for themselves. You invite students to try some scientific tasks by saying either “Let’s be scientists! Scientists explore the world and discover new things!” or “Let’s do science! Doing science means exploring the world and discovering new things!” Would these slightly different invitations make a difference in terms of how girls respond and if you think it might, why do you think that might be? Once you have thought about your answers have read through the article linked below to see what the researchers found.

Source: Girls are More Engaged When They’re “Doing Science” Rather Than “Being Scientists”, Latest Research News, Association for Psychological Science.

Date: February 6, 2019

Photo Credit: Association for Psychological Science.

 Article Link:

So, we could look at the findings reported in the linked article as reflections of different individual choices, by girls, depending upon the nature of the invitation they were offered to an opposition to engage in science tasks. However, if we want to understand why one invitation seemed to work better than the other, we need to step back and think about the social, cultural, and historical forces that gave rise to the stereotypes about girls, women, and science. “Being scientists” invokes stereotypes (of scientists as largely male) where as “Doing science” does not (at least to the same extent), making then activities of doing science more equitably available to girls and boys. The outcomes change for individuals, but they also shift the assumptions that arise from historic stereotypes so that they are not as developmentally influential with the results, potentially, being greater gender equality by the social forces that influence individual choices.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Why do fewer girls than boys show interest in and pursue science as a line of study and as a career path?
  2. What are the differences behind the two wordings of the science invitations discussed in the article?
  3. How can we balance social/historical influences and individual choices when we are trying to provide equal opportunities for girls and boys in science education/career pathways?

References (Read Further):

Rhodes, M., Leslie, S. J., Yee, K. M., & Saunders, K. (2018). Subtle Linguistic Cues Increase Girls’ Engagement in Science. Psychological Science, 0956797618823670.

Brotman, J. S., & Moore, F. M. (2008). Girls and science: A review of four themes in the science education literature. Journal of Research in Science Teaching: The Official Journal of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, 45(9), 971-1002.

Brickhouse, N. W., Lowery, P., & Schultz, K. (2000). What kind of a girl does science? The construction of school science identities. Journal of Research in Science Teaching: The Official Journal of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, 37(5), 441-458. \

Calabrese Barton, A., Kang, H., Tan, E., O’Neill, T. B., Bautista-Guerra, J., & Brecklin, C. (2013). Crafting a future in science: Tracing middle school girls’ identity work over time and space. American Educational Research Journal, 50(1), 37-75.

Archer, L., DeWitt, J., Osborne, J., Dillon, J., Willis, B., & Wong, B. (2012). “Balancing acts”: Elementary school girls’ negotiations of femininity, achievement, and science. Science Education, 96(6), 967-989.