Chandra Muller

With women outpacing their male counterparts in average GPAs in every college at UT, some faculty members say the reasons could range from gender socialization to the realities of the job market.

Across the University, women had an average GPA of 3.21 while men had an average GPA of 3.12 in fall 2013, according to data from the Office of Information Management and Analysis.

Differences ranged from the average cumulative GPA of women being 9.1 percent higher than men’s in the College of Education to 0.3 percent higher in the McCombs School of Business.  

According to Catherine Riegle-Crumb, sociology and education associate professor, these differences in GPAs may be a result of gender socialization occurring as early as middle school, despite men and women having the same cognitive capabilities. 

“Girls tend to work harder,” Riegle-Crumb said. “We have cultural expectations of girls to follow rules and do what is expected of them. They are more likely to be able to have the behavioral and social skills that will allow them to excel.”

According to Riegle-Crumb, the discrepancy between GPAs is not specific to UT. Riegle-Crumb said selective colleges such as UT admit students who are already making higher grades to begin with, which recently have been women. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the enrollment rate for degree-granting institutions in 2012 was 44.5 percent for women, compared to 37.6 percent for men.

“Kids who work really hard in high school are going to be the ones who work really hard in college, even though the content changes,” Riegle-Crumb said. 

According to sociology professor Chandra Muller, another reason the average GPA of women may be higher is because it is necessary for them to invest in their education. 

“Women without a college degree are seriously penalized in the labor market,” Muller said in an email. “Even though there continues to be an earning gap between men and women, that gap is relatively smaller for people with a college degree.” 

Muller said the average GPAs reported by the University only demonstrate overall patterns, hiding how the variance in GPA may be larger for men than women.

“There are some men who do very well and some who do especially poorly, and the GPA spread is larger among men,” Muller said. 

Theatre and dance freshman Ryan Lord said he was not surprised to learn that women tend to receive higher grades than men. 

“I guess since women haven’t had as many opportunities in the past, they may be driven to succeed because of the history of women in education,” Lord said. “[But] I don’t think you can generalize either gender.”

Psychology professor David Yeager was chosen to be the William T. Grant Scholar to further research the relationship between a student’s positive mind-set and academic performance. 

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

After receiving a $350,000 research grant, psychology associate professor David Yeager will begin investigating whether students with positive mind-sets about their intelligence tend to perform better in school and actively seek out opportunities to learn.

On Thursday, Yeager was chosen to be a William T. Grant Scholar, allowing him to further research social-psychological interventions among schools and students. Over the next five years, Yeager will study differing mindsets of students throughout various schools and communities to deduce how viewing intelligence as something not finite is beneficial to a student’s academic success.

“We’re interested in how adolescents transition successfully to new school settings,” Yeager said in an email. “Sometimes, the belief is that [students] have developed — about their belonging or about their ability — can get in the way of taking risks and being resilient when school is hard.”

Yeager said the aim of his research is to help students recognize their struggles and improve their academic performance.

“We try to help them see early difficulties as things that can improve, under the right conditions and with the right support,” Yeager said. “When that is done, then adolescents can be more socially integrated at school and ultimately perform better.”

Sociology professor Chandra Muller believes the research has the potential to become a cost-effective way of aiding under-preforming students.

“It’s an intervention where they try to teach people about mind-set, and, if it’s successful, and it seems like it would be, then it’s a low-cost way to help [students] who, otherwise, might be a little bit more disadvantaged in school,” Muller said. 

Muller and fellow sociology professor Robert Crosnoe will mentor Yeager in regards to the sociological aspects of the research, and public affairs professor Uri Treisman will help apply its conclusions to education policy.

“The sociological part that Dr. Muller and I are there to help him with is to think about how the interventions change the way people think might work better for some groups of people than others and might work better in some schools than others, so we’re really trying to bring the social context,” Crosnoe said.

Muller believes the relationship will be beneficial to both her and Yeager.

“He’s a psychologist, and I’m a sociologist, so it’s always interesting to have multi-disciplinary perspectives,” Muller said. “You learn a lot from that.”

The American Educational Research Association, a national research society devoted to education, has named sociology professor Chandra Muller one of its 22 fellows nationwide for 2014, which, according to Muller’s colleagues, brings important recognition to the University. 

Muller, who is also an faculty research associate at the University’s Population Research Center, will join 557 current fellows when she is inducted on April 4 at the Association’s 2014 Annual Meeting. Muller said she researches how education can shape opportunities in life, which helps to understand which groups of people are being left behind in schools and what can be done to help them.

“It sounds a bit cheesy, but I do think that education improves lives and makes the world a better place,” Muller said. “My research is geared at understanding how it can improve lives over the long run and for people from all backgrounds … Is it the piece of paper associated with the degree that you earn, or is it that you learn different ways of thinking and learning in and out of class that makes it so that college graduates earn more money and are healthier even much later in their lives?”

Robert Crosnoe, sociology and psychology professor, said Muller being named a fellow for AERA benefits the University as a whole.

“Having her be an AERA fellow brings recognition to the University, which has many AERA members, including me, and highlights that UT is a leader in educational research,” Crosnoe said. “One important feature of Dr. Muller’s work is that she has been a pioneer in creating data resources for researchers to study educational inequality … Thus, not only does she do high-quality work, she has immeasurably increased the ability of other researchers to do high-quality work.”

Mark Hayward, sociology professor and director of the Population Research Center, said Muller is an important asset to the Center and the AERA fellowship recognizes her contributions.

“She is the intellectual anchor for a tremendous group of researchers and graduate students,” Hayward said. “She has laid important groundwork for a more sophisticated understanding of how education shapes the transition to adulthood and has far-reaching health and labor market effects far into the adult life course.”