"Looking Beyond Academic Performance: The Influence of Instructor Gender on Student Engagement and Attitude in STEM Fields"

Paper Presentation at Association for Education Finance and Policy (AEFP) Annual Conference
Presenter: Sabrina Solanki
Washington, DC
March 16-18, 2017
2017 Theme: Education Policy and Research in the Post-Obama Era


Recruiting more female college faculty has been frequently suggested as a policy option for addressing gender disparities in STEM fields by better engaging and motivating female students through a “role model effect”. While a small but growing literature has examined the role of instructor gender at the higher education level, they typically only focus on academic outcomes and most often no more than just course grades. As a result, the extent to which student-teacher gender congruence may indeed influence the dynamics of student-instructor interactions, engagement, and attitude remains largely unknown. This paper begins to shed light on this issue by exploiting a unique dataset that not only includes student course performance but also four aspects of self-reported non-cognitive measures, namely behavioral engagement, academic self-efficacy, interest, and utility value from a large swath of STEM gateway courses at a public university. We find that having a female instructor narrows the gender gap in successful course completion, as well as on behavioral engagement in a course, and interest in the subject area