Small group gender ratios impact biology class performance and peer evaluations

Lauren L. Sullivan, Cissy J. Ballen, Sehoya Cotner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Women are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. Evidence suggests the microclimate of the classroom is an important factor influencing female course grades and interest, which encourages retention of women in STEM fields. Here, we test whether the gender composition of small (8±9 person) learning groups impacts course performance, sense of social belonging, and intragroup peer evaluations of intellectual contributions. Across two undergraduate active learning courses in introductory biology, we manipulated the classroom microclimate by varying the gender ratios of learning groups, ranging from 0% female to 100% female. We found that as the percent of women in groups increased, so did overall course performance for all students, regardless of gender. Additionally, women assigned higher peer- evaluations in groups with more women than groups with less women. Our work demonstrates an added benefit of the retention of women in STEM: Increased performance for all, and positive peer perceptions for women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0195129
JournalPloS one
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Sullivan et al. This is an open ccess article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and eproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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