Challenges in Learning under COVID-19 among Adolescents: Gender and Age Differences*

Autor*innen: Elisabeth Pelikan, Selma Korlat, Julia Holzer, Barbara Schober, Christiane Spiel & Marko Lüftenegger


The rapid switch to digital learning during the COVID-19 crises put groups that might be disadvantaged in the virtual classroom at risk (Rapanta et al., 2020). Studies indicate gender differences in the use of technologies and related skills (Colley & Comber, 2003; Drabowicz, 2014; Kayany & Yelsma, 2000; Korlat et al., 2020; Li & Kirkup, 2007), with boys potentially having an advantage over girls in the online classroom based on their higher perceived ability, as well as comfort and engagement with computers (Ashong & Commander, 2012).

Perceived self-efficacy influences learning engagement and intrinsic motivation in the context of digital learning (Dickhäuser & Stiensmeier-Pelster, 2003; Eastin & LaRose, 2000; Joo et al., 2000; Wan et al., 2008). Moreover, competency beliefs and self-efficacy, values and intrinsic motivation may be influenced by environmental support (Crombie et al., 2002; Patrick et al., 2007; Ryan et al., 1994; Song et al., 2015;) which may be even more important in digital learning (Fryer & Bovee, 2016). Previous studies also found that learning motivation, engagement, and perception of social support may vary with age (Bouffard et al., 2003; Fredricks et al. 2004; Gottfried et al., 2001; Ryan et al., 1994). It is therefore critical to investigate gender differences as well as the role of age in digital learning during this fundamentally altered situation in student’s lives.

The aim of this study was to investigate gender and age differences in the digital learning environment students faced in 2020. A total of 19,190 Austrian secondary school students (61.9% girls, Mage = 14.55, SDage= 2.49, age range 10-21) participated in an online study in April 2020 and answered questions regarding their self-efficacy, perceived teacher support, intrinsic motivation and learning engagement during the pandemic-induced school closures.

Results surprisingly showed higher perceived teacher support, intrinsic learning motivation, learning engagement, and digital self-efficacy among girls than boys. Furthermore, age correlated significantly with all scales but Learning engagement, indicating that older students felt significantly more challenged in the distance learning setting during COVID-19. The results of this study have practical implications for school functioning. As the results indicated that boys and older students might particularly struggle with digital learning, teachers and schools should offer more support to them and pay particular attention to their management of school-related tasks in this new learning context.

*Dieses Poster wurde im Rahmen des digitalen Jahres der Gesellschaft für Empirische Bildungsforschung (digiGEBF21) eingereicht und ist bis zum 31.12.2022 an dieser Stelle verfügbar. Alle Rechte liegen bei den Verfasser*innen.