Do Gender Differences in Academic Attainment Correspond with Scholastic Attitudes? An Exploratory Study in a U.K Secondary School


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Background: Research has examined how standardised tests give rise to gender differences in English and STEM subjects, but little research has explored gender differences in classroom-based attainment and the degree to which these correspond to differences in school-related attitudes. Aims: To explore the extent to which gender-achievement gaps in classroom-based performance parallel differences in self-perceptions and scholastic attitudes. Method: An independent sample of first (n = 187, age 11-12, Study 1) and second-year students (n = 113, age 12-13, Study 2) from a U.K comprehensive secondary school completed a questionnaire measuring academic mindset, self-efficacy, self-concept, competence beliefs, personal and social self-esteem, and endorsement of gender-subject and career stereotypes. Responses were then matched to their respective classroom grades in English, mathematics, science and computing. Results: Girls outperformed boys in English in their first year but reported lower global self-esteem and higher science-career stereotype endorsement. Conversely, girls outperformed boys in mathematics in their second year, but paradoxically reported lower self-concept and competence beliefs in mathematics and science, and higher competence beliefs in English. Across both studies, mindset, self-efficacy, competence beliefs and social self-esteem were positively related to English attainment; academic self-efficacy was positively related to mathematics attainment; and mindset, self-efficacy, self-concept, and competence beliefs were positively related to science attainment. Conclusions: Gender-achievement gaps in classroom-based academic attainment are complex and highly nuanced; they appear to vary between school subjects across years and may not correspond with similar differences in self-perceptions and scholastic attitudes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-16
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Applied Social Psychology
Issue number1
Early online date15 Sept 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Sept 2020


  • gender-achievement gap
  • gender stereotypes
  • academic attainment
  • mindset
  • self-esteem
  • self-efficacy
  • scholastic attitudes


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