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The role of girls in science

1 June 1997


The purpose of this qualitative study was to answer the research question: Should boys and girls be in mixed cooperative groups in a high school science laboratory class? My research addressing this question was based on the work of Guzzetti and Williams on girls in mixed gender groups (1996). They proposed girls would have a greater chance to succeed if they were not inhibited by the males in a group. This inhibition occurs in small or large groups, and does not go unnoticed by girls. In most cases, when girls reach high school their confidence in their ability in science has diminished (American Association of University Women, 1992). This study was conducted at a large, suburban high school located in the Pacific Northwest. The participants were ninth grade students in an Integrated Science class. Information was gathered in the classroom through direct observation, including conversations, questionnaires and written student work. In order to protect the participants' rights to privacy, no names were provided on student work, and pseudonyms were adopted for all participants discussed in this study. After collecting and organizing extensive data, which included observations, questionnaires and student work, an interesting pattern emerged. In the classroom, girls were not participating as much as boys in the hands-on activities, and the boys dominated in the class discussions. In the written work however, girls demonstrated as much competence as boys.


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