Academic Proficiency

SixWomenComposite1024 Academic ProficiencyReview the Theory and Evidence.

Recommendations and Strategies

  • Teach students that ability can be enlarged and expanded: This recommendation, with a “moderate” research endorsement from the National Center for Educational Research, tells students that working hard and exercising their minds will help them improve.
  • Intervene to revise underestimation. Develop methods and interventions to target girls’ and women’s underestimation of their abilities in math and physical science.
  • Provide math camps for girls: Math camps that included drawing, manipulative models and cooperative group work were found to increase confidence, which could later be applied in the classroom.
  • Incentivize AP courses: One Midwestern high school added weighted grades for AP courses and saw a steady female enrollment increase.
  • Teach visual spatial skills: Women’s test scores after visual spatial skills educational programs improve in greater proportion than their male peers. Opportunities for learning and practice of visual spatial skills in an encouraging environment impact educational success. Targeted training can serve to improve spatial skills performance beginning in early childhood and continuing into adulthood.
  • Develop video games that appeal to girls: Video game playing not only builds specific cognitive and motor skills, but it also encourages spatial and problem-solving skills.

Circumstances in which researchers found stereotype threat to have little effect included small educational institutions where personal attention of instructors is expected, women are no longer in the minority, a female role model was present during testing, tests were conducted in same sex groups of three, and students have read about female role models.

When women are academically proficient, they are more likely to persist in choosing nontraditional careers.

Effective Practices and Resources

  • The USDOE site, Doing What Works, contains a section on “Ability is Expandable” that provides great practices for teaching students that abilities can be enlarged and expanded.
  • TechREACH strives to increase middle school students’ interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) through hands-on high-quality curriculum, mentoring, and teacher professional development.
  • Teaching Spatial Reasoning to Improve Retention of Women in Technology is a webinar presented by Sheryl A. Sorby, Ph.D., the author of “Introduction to 3D Spatial Visualization: An Active Approach” and professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department at Michigan Technological University.
  •  was created by two social psychologists as a resource for faculty, teachers, students, and the general public interested in the phenomenon of stereotype threat. This website offers summaries of research on stereotype threat and discusses unresolved issues and controversies in the research literature. Included are some research-based suggestions for reducing the negative consequences of stereotyping, particularly in academic settings.

*Please note that author/date callouts to references and full references can be found in the Print Form of the Root Causes document. You will be asked to complete a brief survey about your intended use of the document. The PDF will download after the survey is submitted. Thank you for your assistance!