University of Leicester
Learning about Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics _ A Linguistic Inquiry Author Copy.docx (197.22 kB)
Download file

Identifying the Psychological Processes used by Male and Female Students when Learning about Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics: A Linguistic Inquiry

Download (197.22 kB)
journal contribution
posted on 2021-09-02, 10:27 authored by Sophie Hall, Stephen Puttick, John Maltby
Learning in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) is challenging, leaving many students to give up on these subjects. Specifically, females are underrepresented in STEM industries. Identifying how male and female students deal with STEM learning challenges, and how this relates to learning outcomes, may inform teaching that best supports the preferences of individual students. This study asked secondary school students, who had just completed a STEM lesson that they reported as finding difficult (n = 3758; male = 51.2%), to write narratives about how they dealt with the lesson. Narratives were analyzed using a linguistic text analysis program to identify core psychological processes contained within the narratives from lessons in science n = 1305 (males = 46.3%), technology n = 589 (males = 63.7%), engineering n = 202 (males = 57.9%), and mathematics n = 1662 (males = 49.9%). Students were also asked to score how well they think they did in the difficult lesson (learning outcome). Pearson's correlations between students' use of core psychological processes and their perceptions of lesson success were computed separately for males and females. Common strategies emerged across the STEM subjects: for female students, positive learning outcomes were associated with positive emotions, social processes, rewards, and strategic thinking. For male students, positive learning outcomes were associated with motivation around the risk of failing, rationalizing the problem, and strategic thinking. Negative emotion was associated with a negative learning outcome for both broadly defined genders, but this was more evident across the subjects for females. We specify our understanding of this strategy by reporting data separately for the STEM subjects and the implications for STEM pedagogy.


Leverhulme Trust Research Project Grant (RPG-2018-368


Author affiliation

College of Life Sciences, University of Leicester


  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Published in

Science Education







Acceptance date


Copyright date


Available date




Usage metrics

    University of Leicester Publications