Many previous studies found girls to be more anxious about science learning than boys, but a recent study by Goetz and colleagues (2013) has questioned this conclusion, showing that previously used assessments might have been biased and that experience sampling method assessments point to equal levels of situational anxiety of males and females in given math lessons. My new article about anxiety in science lessons replicates these findings in math and other science contexts, and in addition points out that even though girls seem to experience as much anxiety in such lessons as boys, their academic motivation might suffer more than the boys’ motivation in anxiety-provoking situations.
Please see the abstract below, and the pdf linked here.

Does Anxiety in Science Classrooms Impair Science Motivation? -Gender Differences Beyond the Mean Level

Julia Moeller, Katariina Salmela-Aro, Jari Lavonen, Barbara Schneider


This study investigated gender differences in the experience of state anxiety among a sample of 274 US and 193 Finnish complementary and high school students (46.9% female; 153 ninth graders, 207 tenth graders, 37 eleventh graders, and 37 twelfth graders).

Three main research questions guided our study:  1) Do male and female students differ in their anxiety during science lessons if in-the-moment state measures are used? 2) How does anxiety affect motivation in science classes? and 3) Do anxiety and its relationship to motivation differ by gender?

We employed the Experience Sampling Method (ESM), a form of time/diary instrument to assess experiences of anxiety in the moment in which they occur, in different contexts, e.g., in and out of school and in specific science lessons.

There were no gender differences in state anxiety with the applied in-the-moment measures, which corroborates previous findings.

Females experienced less positive affect and intrinsic motivation and more negative affect and avoidance motivation in anxious states across all their everyday life experiences. In science lessons, the only consistent finding was that females experience more stress in anxious situations.

The findings suggest that prior methods for measuring anxiety among females may be related to the measurement instruments that are used (see Goetz et al., 2013) and have important theoretical and practical implications for the assessment and interpretation of gender differences in science classrooms.

Keywords: State anxiety, motivation, gender differences, experience sampling method