Learning Style

When instructors and technology courses account for different male and female learning styles the retention rates of women improve. Also see Curriculum for more articles on the type of learning that appeals to women and girls.

CAEE conducted multi-year studies with over 5,400 students at more than 20 universities, and made sure to oversample for gender and race in order to identify ways to increase diversity in engineering. Section 2.9 of this report focuses on “Summarizing Results about Diversity” and shows how female engineering students tend to approach design differently from male students and report less confidence and course preparation to do design. According to this study, mentors were also more likely to influence female students to study engineering than male students.

Download a PDF of the full report from CAEE.


Atman, C. J., Sheppard, S. D., Turns, J., Adams, R. S., Fleming, L. N., Reed, S., Streveler, R. A., Smith, K. A., Miller, R. L., Leifer, L. J., Yasuhara, K., Lund, D. (2010). Enabling Engineering Student Success: The Final Report for the Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education. San Rafael, CA: Morgan & Claypool Publishers. Retrieved from http://www.engr.washington.edu/caee/CAEE%20final%20report%2020101102.pdf

This case study from the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) explains how instructors can implement pair programming in their computing courses, and shares how the University of California Santa Cruz used pair programming assignments to increase the retention of both female and male students.

Read the full case study on the NCWIT website.


Barker, L., & Cohoon, J. M. (2007). How Do You Retain Women through Collaborative Learning? Pair Programming (Case Study 1). Retrieved from The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) website: www.ncwit.org/pairpractice

This study looked at math instruction with content that appeals to feminine or masculine interests. It found that gender-adapted instruction makes a difference in student attitudes, which may affect persistence.


Leonard, Mary J.; Derry, Sharon J., "Can Gender-Adapted Instruction Improve Mathematics Performance and Attitudes?" Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Seattle, WA, April 10-14, 2001.

This article explains the differences in female and male learning styles and provides suggestions for appealing to female interests.


Milgram, Donna, "Gender Differences in Learning Style Specific to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)" Tech Equity Project of California State University, Channel Islands. The Tech Equity Project of California State University Channel Islands was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Women's Educational Equity Act.

How do women feel about mathematics and math classes? Discover issues facing women, such as gaining confidence in their abilities and seeing math as part of a bigger picture.


Tobias, Sheila, "Gender Equity for Mathematics and Science: Notes on Invited Faculty Presentations," Woodrow Wilson Leadership Program in Mathematics.

A large study of college students examines different ways men and women like to learn new technology. Among the findings:  women preferred to learn in a collaborative setting where they could put the technology tools to work.

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Rajagopal, Indhu and Nis Bojin, "A Gendered World: Students and Instructional Technologies," First Monday, volume 8, number 1, January 2003.

This article looks at approaches to learning by men and women. Among its findings: women tend to look for personal connections and relevance in their coursework.


Lim Yuen Lie, Lisa-Angelique, and Emil Cheong, "How do Male and Female Students Approach Learning at NUS?" Centre for Development of Teaching and Learning, Vol. 7, No.1, January 2004.

A small study of undergraduates found that women were more socially motivated in their approach to academics. They preferred working with peers and looked for social recognition.


Chang, Weining, "Learning Goals and Styles by Gender -- A Study of NUS Students," Centre for Development of Teaching and Learning, Vol. 7, No.1, January 2004.