What the Literature Says*
Some research indicates that there are instructional methods, learning styles, and interest that can be characterized as distinctly female. As evidenced below, females prefer learning experiences that they help design, that are learner-centered, and that involve them in a community.
Designing learning experiences: Females’ preference for designing learning experiences and males’ preference for utilizing learning experiences are found to be consistent with gender stereotype research. This is particularly true when the design activities include a focus on problem-solving.
Collaboration and community: A Society of Women Engineers review of research studies that involved the recruitment and retention of women engineers found that the key to attracting more women and minorities into engineering is to make teaching more learner centered. Data indicate that women and minority students prefer environments where they feel as though there is a community, especially one in that they feel involved. One project sought to retain first-year female undergraduates by giving them access to collaborative laboratory research work. The result was that the retention rate was nearly double that of a control group.
Practical applications: Providing relevant and practical hands-on experience with STEM helps to boost girls’ and women’s interest in STEM. A study of 804 undergraduate engineering students found that both men and women prefer that the course emphasize practical application rather than theory.