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Girls and STEM

A focus of our work is the investigation of the image of science and the particular implications this image has for girls' and women's engagement in STEM. In this regard, in many studies we have been able to demonstrate that the perceived lower fit between girls' (feminine) self-concept and the image of physics can explain girls' lower interest in physics (e.g., Kessels, 2005; summarizing Kessels, 2015; Kessels et al., 2014; Kessels & Taconis, 2012). We also tackled the question whether a more masculine self-concept (instrumentality) can be an asset, especially for female students (Streck, Nishen, & Kessels, 2022). As a much-discussed measure of girls' advancement in STEM, we examined instruction in single-sex classes, revealing the psychological mechanisms through which positive effects for girls can be explained (Kessels & Hannover, 2008).

Selected publications:

Heyder, A., Steinmayr, R. & Kessels, U. (2019). Do teachers’ beliefs about math aptitude and brilliance explain gender differences in children’s math self-concept? Frontiers in Education, 4, 34. https://doi.org/10.3389/feduc.2019.00034

Kessels, U. (2005). Fitting into the stereotype: How gender-stereotyped perceptions of prototypic peers relate to liking for school subjects. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 20(3), 309-323. DOI: 10.1007/BF03173559

Kessels, U. (2015). Bridging the gap by enhancing the fit: How stereotypes about STEM clash with stereotypes about girls. International Journal of Gender, Science and Technology, 7(2), 281-296. http://genderandset.open.ac.uk/index.php/genderandset/article/view/392/687

Kessels, U. & Hannover, B. (2008). When being a girl matters less. Accessibility of gender-related self-knowledge in single-sex and coeducational classes. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 78(2), 273–289. DOI: 10.1348/000709907X215938

Kessels, U., Heyder, A., Latsch, M. & Hannover, B (2014). How gender differences in academic engagement relate to students' gender identity. Educational Research, 56(2), 219-228. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00131881.2014.898916

Kessels, U., Rau, M. & Hannover, B. (2006). What goes well with physics? Measuring and altering the image of science. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 74(4), 761-780. DOI: 10.1348/000709905X59961

Kessels, U. & Taconis, R. (2012). Alien or alike? How the perceived similarity between the typical science teacher and a student's self-image correlates with choosing science at school. Research in Science Education. 42(6), 1049-1071. DOI: 10.1007/s11165-011-9230-9

Streck, H., Nishen, A.K. & Kessels, U. (2022). Instrumentality gives girls the edge: Gender-differential relationships between instrumentality, achievement motivation, and self-esteem. Sex Roles, 86, 379-394. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-021-01270-1