Gender differences in cognitive and noncognitive factors related to achievement in organic chemistry

Document Type


Publication Date





For many college students in the sciences, organic chemistry poses a difficult challenge. Indeed, success in organic chemistry has proven pivotal in the careers of a vast number of students in a variety of science disciplines. A better understanding of the factors that contribute to achievement in this course should contribute to efforts to increase the number of students in the science disciplines. Further, an awareness of gender differences in factors associated with achievement should aid efforts to bolster the participation of women in chemistry and related disciplines. Using a correlation research design, the individual relationships between organic chemistry achievement and each of several cognitive variables and noncognitive variables were assessed. In addition, the relationships between organic chemistry achievement and combinations of these independent variables were explored. Finally, gender- and instructor-related differences in the relationships between organic chemistry achievement and the independent variables were investigated. Cognitive variables included the second-semester general chemistry grade, the ACT–English, –math, –reading, and –science-reasoning scores, and scores from a spatial visualization test. Noncognitive variables included anxiety, confidence, effectance motivation, and usefulness. The second-semester general chemistry grade was found to be the best indicator of performance in organic chemistry, while the effectiveness of other predictors varied between instructors. In addition, gender differences were found in the explanations of organic chemistry achievement variance provided by this study. In general, males exhibited stronger correlations between predictor variables and organic chemistry achievement than females.

Link to Published Version