The effects of prior education and engagement on success in engineering studies: do women and men differ?

Jan Kamphorst, Adriaan Hofman, Ellen Jansen, Cees Terlouw

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Background In Dutch engineering education, female students outperform male students.
Using an interactionalist framework, this study explores factors that contribute to this gender-based difference.
This study aims to answer two questions: Do female and male students differ in background characteristics, engagement factors, and academic success? Are differences in the relationships among background characteristics, engagement factors, and academic success gender-specific?
Data on male and female engineering undergraduate students from five Dutch universities were subjected to linear structural modeling to compare potential gender differences in the relationships among the focal variables. Two structural models were considered.
Female students spent more time on independent study, reported more social inte- gration, completed more credits, and were more likely to stay in engineering than were male students. Academic integration and intention to persist were important for comple- tion of credits for both genders. Social integration was only important for men’s academic success. Females seemed to benefit less from good preparation through active learning during secondary education, and the effect of a high grade point average on math was neg- ative for females but positive for males.
Interactionalist concepts can explain academic success, but the relationships among concepts vary by gender. Males’ intentions to persist in engineering are an outcome
of engagement processes during the first year, whereas females’ intentions to persist in engineering are manifest at the start of the first year.
Translated title of the contributionDe effecten van vooropleiding en engagement op studiesucces in techniekopleidingen: verschillen vrouwen en mannen?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-211
JournalJournal of Engineering Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2015


  • gender
  • higher education
  • engineering

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