A new and direct test of the ‘gender bias’ in multiple-choice questions

Stellenbosch Working Paper Series No. WP23/2009
 
Publication date: 2009
 
Author(s):
[protected email address] (Department of Economics, University of Stellenbosch)
[protected email address] (Department of Economics, University of Stellenbosch)
 
Abstract:

Local and international research has identified a bias in favour of male students with MCQs. If correctly identified, this bias holds implications for reasonable assessment strategies in economics courses. A standard method used in the literature is to relate student performance to various features of the learning environment (such as the type of question) and to student-specific characteristics (such as past performance and lecture attendance). A more direct approach is possible: we set comparable questions (in three categories – graphs, quantitative and theory) in the written and MCQ sections of three tests in the introductory microeconomics course at the University of Stellenbosch. This allows a direct comparison between the performance of male and female students (overall and per question category), without the need to model overall student performance. The number of students in this course, almost 2000, offers a suitably large sample for studying this question. Our evidence does not confirm the strong claims about gender bias in the literature; indeed we find the opposite: a strong positive female gender effect, but for written questions only. We also find no evidence of higher risk-aversion by female students towards MCQ questions with negative marking.

 
JEL Classification:

A22

Keywords:

Gender bias, Economics education

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The international focus was on the US, with a key speaking engagement by Federal Reserve (Fed) Chair Jerome Powell and the headline inflation print important in shaping interest rate expectations. In Europe, the results and consequences of the French and UK elections stole the headlines. Locally, we saw parliament elect the chairs of various portfolio...

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