Differences between and Influences on Male and Female Students' Applied Project Learning Outcomes

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Employers continue to expect better prepared college graduates in their knowledge and skills (St. Clair & Tschirhart, 2002). While active learning has been mostly used in the social sciences and liberal arts (Zlotkowski, 1996), business schools are increasing the use of this pedagogy to meet employers' expectations for students' career preparation (Hamer, 2000). Experiential projects increases learning outcomes for not only content (knowledge) but also skill development, e.g., critical thinking, interpersonal communications (St. Clair & Tschirhart, 2002). Active learning, or experiential learning projects provide students an experience "to retain information for longer periods of time and apply information to new situations" (Hamer, 2000, p. 26), e.g., for future career employment.

Another employment trend continues to influence business education and its pedagogy--increasing number of female students. Businesses are hiring more women (Bradshaw, 2007) who are having successful careers, and are experiencing that firms with higher percentage of female managers have been more profitable during the 2008-2009 recession (Ferrary, 2009). As a result, business schools are actively recruiting and attracting more female students. However, business schools still lag behind other professional schools, e.g., law, medicine, in the percentage of female students (Ibeh, Carter, Poff, & Hamill, 2008). Females remain the gender minority in business schools. Furthermore, females have a different attitude toward learning and learning style (Gilligan, 1982/1993; Kaenzig, Hyatt, & Anderson, 2007). Therefore, there is a research need to "investigate the relationship between student characteristics and the use of semistructured activities" (Hamer, 2000, p. 33) in business education, e.g., male/female students and applied learning projects. Hence, this study focuses on two areas, (1) Are there significant differences between male and female students applied project learning outcomes?, and (2) What are the influences on each gender's learning?

APPLIED LEARNING LITERATURE

Studies on gender specific learning outcomes do not indicate major differences between males and females (Hyde, 2005). However, minor gender specific learning differences have been found in certain fields. Logan and Johnston (2010) state that gender differences in reading attainment have been always in favor of girls. In mathematics area results are generally in favor of boys (Hanna, 2000). Males traditionally outperform females in science (Sanchez & Wiley, 2010). Khairulanuar, Nazre, Jamilah, Sairabanu and Norasikin (2010) in their experiential research show that the boys received a higher rating than the girls in understanding of geometry subject.

Some authors point to the cultural context and stereotypical labeling for specific differences in learning and pupils interest (Steele, 1997). Biology and language, for instance, are regarded as girls' subject (Gardner, 1998). On the other hand, physics is considered boys subject and interest area (Gardner, 1998). Dar-Nimrod & Heine (2006) in their study state that the gender specific learning outcomes differences could be the result of reaction to the expected cultural stereotypical behavior.

There is not much research on the learning differences between males and females in hands-on applied experiential learning. Batz, Wittler and Wilde (2010) in a quasi-experiential study with a sample of 110 girls and 87 boys in fifth grade tested the gender specific learning differences in an extracurricular zoological garden experiment during a school excursion. Their results showed a higher degree of interest (motivation) and more knowledge gain for the girls than boys.

Business schools, particularly marketing discipline have been integrating applied experiential projects to their curricula in recent years to enhance learning outcomes of the programs. …