Gender differences in student comfort voluntarily asking and answering questions in large-enrollment college science courses

Erika M. Nadile, Keonti D. Williams, Nicholas J. Wiesenthal, Katherine N. Stahlhut, Krystian A. Sinda, Christopher F. Sellas, Flor Salcedo, Yasiel I. Rivera Camacho, Shannon G. Perez, Meagan L. King, Airyn E. Hutt, Alyssa Heiden, George Gooding, Jomaries O. Gomez-Rosado, Sariah A. Ford, Isabella Ferreira, Megan R. Chin, William D. Bevan-Thomas, Briana M. Barreiros, Emilie AlfonsoYi Zheng, Katelyn M. Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Allowing students to ask and answer questions is a common practice employed by college science instructors. However, recent literature has identified that women participate in whole-class discussions less often than men. One hypothesized reason for this gender gap is that women may be less comfortable participating. However, no studies have examined students' comfort with asking and answering questions in large-enrollment science courses, identified what about these practices might make students uncomfortable, or explored whether there are gender differences with regard to student comfort. To answer these questions, we surveyed 417 undergraduates at an R1 institution about their experiences asking and answering questions in large-enrollment college science courses. Students answered questions about the extent to which they felt comfortable both asking and answering questions and selected possible factors that could make them uncomfortable participating. Using binary logistic regression, we tested whether student demographics predicted their opinions about these practices. Over half of students reported feeling uncomfortable both asking and answering questions in front of college science classes, and women were significantly less comfortable than men both asking and answering questions. Furthermore, we identified student confidence regarding their knowledge of the material and a concern that other students would judge them as some of the primary factors that could cause students to feel uncomfortable asking and answering questions in front of the whole class. This work highlights factors that instructors can target in hopes of maximizing student comfort participating in large-enrollment college science courses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00100-21
JournalJournal of Microbiology and Biology Education
Volume22
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2021

Keywords

  • Active learning
  • Answering questions
  • Asking questions
  • Comfort
  • Comfort
  • Gender
  • Participation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

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