Factors affecting female enrollment in high school advanced placement science courses

This study identifies and investigates the factors affecting female enrollment in high school advanced placement (AP) courses. The study was completed in 2007 with 327 science students from a large suburban high school in Orange County, California. Students' grade-levels ranged from lOth grade to lih grade, and students were enrolled in advanced or AP science courses. All students were given a survey containing open and closed ended questions pertaining to one of the three motivating factors being studied: personal, social or academic, or nature of discipline. A smaller group of female students were interviewed to further determine each student's reasons for enrolling in one of the four AP science courses offered at the high school. The results of the survey and interview indicate that the most important influence on young female students is their parents. Although peers play some role when AP females share their workload with other AP females, peer influence is negligible when compared to parental influence. The importance of teachers, be they male or female, is second only to parents. Female students seek the advice and recommendations of teachers when they select which courses to enroll. In addition, young female students are more apt to choose advanced courses in the biological sciences rather than the physical sciences. This finding is more in keeping with the stereotypical tendency of females to eschew the physical sciences. Keywords: advanced placement science, gender differences, personal factors, nature of science, high school female students