In 2011, we wrote a short chapter for the then Higher Education Academy about one aspect of our HERE Project work: male student retention. It was probably far from ground-breaking, but it was quite important for helping us to think about some of the issues associated with student success. The data we looked at appeared to suggest something interesting about differences between male and female students. I’m posting this here simply because every now and then I get asked a question about male approaches to study and think that there’s an interesting story to share (okay I can never find a copy of the report when I need it).
Our chapter starts on page 20 and the appendix on page 38 might also be worth a quick scan.
I’m not sure if I’m a better researcher now, but I’ve just noticed that I’ve typed ‘%’ where I ought to have used ‘percentage points’. The male students in our survey appeared to be different from their female counterparts in a number of areas.
The two strongest differences between male and female responses related to effort put into studies. Male students appeared to be 18% less likely to be working ‘hard’ or ‘very hard’ (Table 2) and 18% less likely to be prioritising their academic studies (Table 3) than their female counterparts). Male students also appeared to be more distanced from, and less engaged with, the normal learning and teaching processes. For example, they were less likely to find their course interesting, their lecturers enthusiastic or be enjoying the course. They were also less likely to find their feedback useful. This was particularly significant as our findings suggest satisfaction with feedback relates directly to confidence about coping.
The broad conclusions were that male students were less likely to think that they had problems, despite being statistically more at risk of dropping out. To stereotype a little, they appeared to more confidently to press on without realising that they were walking off the edge of a cliff. Female students appeared to be more likely to have doubts before departing.
It’s a few years old, and sample sizes, voluntary nature etc., but I still think it’s quite interesting. I hope you do too.