Peer tutoring programs are increasingly popular on college campuses, and some have speculated that they might help reduce gender gaps in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. However, despite their popularity, very little attention has been paid to the behavioral and psychological processes that unfold in peer tutoring sessions themselves. In a new paper, recently published in Contemporary Educational Psychology, we examine the behaviors and emotional experiences of peer tutors and their students during STEM peer tutoring sessions, and we investigate whether there are any gender differences in these processes.
We find that men and women (both tutors and students) show similar levels of behavioral engagement—they ask and answer the same number of questions, talk for the same length of time, and appear equally engaged to outside coders. However, women tutors and women students report feeling more anxious and less confident than men feel after the sessions; they also appear less confident to outside coders. In addition, women tutors evaluate their own performance as tutors more poorly than men tutors do.