Peer tutoring in STEM has risen in popularity in the past several years and has been proposed as one method of reducing gender disparities in STEM outcomes. Yet, the ways in which students and peer tutors engage with each other remain largely unexplored. In this study, we employed a multi-method approach to investigate whether students’ and tutors’ engagement behaviors and affective experiences during peer tutoring interactions in STEM fields differed by gender. Sixty unacquainted undergraduate college students formed student-tutor pairs and participated in videotaped thirty-minute tutoring sessions in the lab, all of which covered STEM topics (Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Economics, Mathematics, and Physics). We found no consistent gender differences across three measures of behavioral engagement: men and women talked for a similar amount of time, they did not differ in four of five types of questions asked (i.e., “clarification” and “knowledge” questions for tutors, and “feedback” and “more information” questions for students), and they were perceived as equally engaged by outside coders. One behavioral difference emerged: men students asked more “repeat” questions than women students. In contrast, consistent gender differences across four measures of affective experiences were found: women reported more anxiety and less confidence relative to men, they were perceived as less confident by outside coders relative to men, and women tutors evaluated their own performance less positively than men tutors. These findings suggest that despite being similarly engaged as men in peer tutoring interactions, women face psychological barriers in this context that may inhibit them from pursuing advanced degrees or careers in STEM.
- Negative affect
- Peer tutoring
- Social interaction
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental and Educational Psychology