How partner gender influences female students’ problem solving in physics education

Ning Ding, Egbert Harskamp

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Research has shown that female students cannot profit as much as male students can from cooperative learning in physics, especially in mixed-gender dyads. This study has explored the influence of partner gender on female students’ learning achievement, interaction and the problem-solving process during cooperative learning. In Shanghai, a total of 50 students (26 females and 24 males), drawn from two classes of a high school, took part in the study. Students were randomly paired, and there were three research groups: mixed-gender dyads (MG), female–female dyads (FF) and male–male dyads (MM). Analysis of students’ pre- and post-test performances revealed that female students in the single-gender condition solved physics problems more effectively than did those in the mixed-gender condition, while the same was not the case for male students. We further explored the differences between female and male communication styles, and content among the three research groups. It showed that the females’ interaction content and problem-solving processes were more sensitive to partner gender than were those for males. This might explain why mixed-gender cooperation in physics disadvantages females in high schools.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-343
JournalJournal of Science Education and Technology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • learning process


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