Do Gender Differences in Academic Attainment Correspond with Scholastic Attitudes? An Exploratory Study in a U.K Secondary School

Charlotte Rebecca Pennington, Linda K Kaye, Adam Qureshi, Derek Heim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research has examined how standardized tests give rise to gender differences in English and STEM attainment, but little research has explored gender differences in classroom-based attainment and the degree to which these correspond to differences in school-related attitudes. To explore the extent to which gender-achievement gaps in classroom-based performance parallel differences in self-perceptions and scholastic attitudes. An independent sample of first (n = 187, age 11–12, Study 1) and second-year students (n = 113, age 12–13, Study 2) from a UK comprehensive secondary school completed a questionnaire measuring academic mindset, self-efficacy, self-concept, competence beliefs, personal and social self-esteem, and endorsement of gender-subject and career stereotypes. Responses were then matched to their respective classroom grades in English, mathematics, science, and computing. Girls outperformed boys in English in their first year but reported lower global self-esteem and greater endorsement of science-career stereotypes. Conversely, girls outperformed boys in mathematics in their second year, but paradoxically reported lower self-concept and competence beliefs in mathematics and science, and higher competence beliefs in English. Across both studies, mindset, self-efficacy, competence beliefs, and social self-esteem were positively related to English attainment; academic self-efficacy was positively related to mathematics attainment; and mindset, self-efficacy, self-concept, and competence beliefs were positively related to science attainment. Gender-achievement gaps in classroom-based academic attainment are complex and highly nuanced; they appear to vary between school subjects across years and may not correspond with similar differences in self-perceptions and scholastic attitudes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-16
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Applied Social Psychology
Issue number1
Early online date15 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

© 2020 The Authors. Journal of Applied Social Psychology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


  • gender-achievement gap
  • academic attainment
  • scholastic attitudes
  • self-esteem
  • gender stereotypes
  • mindset
  • self-efficacy


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