/Volumes/untitled/talks/gender gaps in performance in undergraduate physics


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  • FCI is a well-established conceptual test developed by Hestenes and Halloun at University of Arizona as tool to measure students’ understanding of Newtonian mechanics. Students are compelled to choose between Newtonian concepts of force an common misconceptions they might have. Routinely administered as Pre-test /Post-test to be used as measure of how course has affected student understanding. Original FCI has 29 questions - using revised and extended version with 33 questions
  • Combined 5 years worth of data subsequently split by males and females to compare scores both when they enter the university - week 1, and after 1 semester of teaching. Graph - mean percentage scores on FCI on y-axis, and Pre-test / Post-test results on x-axis. Values above each bar represent the absolute scores out of 33 for each gender. What I have defined here is the Gender Gap, which we have defined as the mean avg score for M - mean avg score F Pre-test: statistically sig gender gap, Males 12% higher than incoming females Post-test: gender gap remains sig, Males 4% higher than females, Females have higher normalised gain than males after one semester of teaching
  • If we look at each question of the FCI individually we see that males, in green, outperform females, in blue on every question, with some questions showing greater differences than others. In the pre-test it was found that all but 8 questions had a statistically significant difference between males and females
  • Taking a quick look at the post-test results we see that both genders have improved overall in each question and there is a large decrease in the gender gap between males and females BUT males are still outperforming females in almost every question, but fewer questions show a significant difference (22/33 not significant)
  • FCI has been similarly used at many institutions in NA. Compare these results to research carried out by Mazur group at Harvard Also saw a decrease in the gender gap after one semester but concluded that for fully interactive teaching classes there was a complete elimination of gender gap after one semester. Marked differences in composition of introductory physics course cohorts between NA and UK
  • F 68.18% M 60.41%
  • F 52.06% M 50.98%
  • /Volumes/untitled/talks/gender gaps in performance in undergraduate physics

    1. 1. Gender gaps in performance in undergraduate physics Robyn Donnelly, Simon Bates, Cait MacPhee
    2. 2. <ul><li>Overview </li></ul><ul><li>Evidence for a performance gender gap in introductory physics courses </li></ul><ul><li> - Force Concept Inventory </li></ul><ul><li>Comparisons with results from North American Institutions </li></ul><ul><li>Differences in Examination / Coursework Assessment Performance </li></ul><ul><li>Conclusions and Future Work </li></ul>
    3. 3. Force Concept Inventory (FCI) <ul><li>Examines students’ understanding of Newtonian mechanics and highlights common misconceptions </li></ul><ul><li>Used as measure of how a course affects students’ understanding of the tested concepts by being issued as a Pre- and Post-test at the beginning and end of a period of instruction </li></ul><ul><li>Currently we are using a revised and extended version of the FCI containing 33 questions </li></ul><ul><li>Pre-test and Post-test results collected for introductory Physics 1A course between 2006-2010 </li></ul>
    4. 4. Gender Gap G i = <S M > - <S F > Pre-test gap: G= 12% Post-test gap: G= 4% Gender gap narrows but remains statistically significant with males on average scoring higher than females Normalised Gain: M=0.49 F=0.53 N(Male)= 620 N(Female)= 236
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    7. 7. <ul><li>Study by Lorenzo, Crouch and Mazur at Harvard University </li></ul><ul><li>Introductory calculus-based physics course exhibited increase in both male and female learning gains through the use of interactive engagement techniques </li></ul><ul><li>Pre-semester gender gap fully closed after Post-test </li></ul>7 Lorenzo, Crouch, Mazur Am J Phys 74(2) (2006) 118-122
    8. 8. Gender Gap in Coursework/Examinations <ul><li>Research by University of Colorado 1 analysed gender gaps in students’ coursework and exam grades over seven semesters. </li></ul><ul><li>Key Features of Study: </li></ul><ul><li>Males consistently outperformed Females on Exams </li></ul><ul><li>Females consistently outperformed Males on Coursework </li></ul>1. Lauren E. Kost, Steven J. Pollock, and Noah D. Finkelstein. Characterizing the gender gap in introductory physics. Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res., 5(1), Jan 2009. 8
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    10. 10. Results from our Students in Physics 1A: Females on average scoring 7% higher than males in coursework 10
    11. 11. Results from our Students in Physics 1A: 11
    12. 12. Results from our Students in Physics 1B: 12
    13. 13. Results from our Students in Physics 1B: 13
    14. 14. Conclusions and Future Work 14 <ul><li>A gender gap exists in introductory physics courses as measured by various assessments instruments </li></ul><ul><li>This performance gap narrows after a semester of instruction but remains significant </li></ul><ul><li>Difference in gender performance depending on assessment type: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Females outperforming males on coursework </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Examination results less conclusive </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Longitudinal Study of Coursework/Examination results </li></ul>
    15. 15. <ul><li>Thank you </li></ul><ul><li>References: </li></ul><ul><li>D. Hestenes, M. Wells, and G. Swackhamer. Force concept inventory. Phys. Teach., 30:141{158, March 1992. </li></ul><ul><li>Lorenzo, Crouch, Mazur. Reducing the gender gap in the physics classroom. Am J Phys 74(2) (2006) 118-122 </li></ul><ul><li>Lauren E. Kost, Steven J. Pollock, and Noah D. Finkelstein. Characterizing the gender gap in introductory physics. Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res., 5(1), Jan 2009. </li></ul>15