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Gender gap or program gap?: Students’ negotiations of study practice in a course in electromagnetism
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Physics, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Physics Didactics.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Physics, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Physics Didactics. Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Centre for Gender Research.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8180-5369
2016 (English)In: Physical Review Physics Education Research, ISSN 2469-9896, Vol. 12, no 2, 020112Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This study of achievement differences, as reflected by course grades, on a third-semester electromagnetism course at a Swedish research university was motivated by instructor concerns about gender inequalities. Quantitative analysis showed a gender gap in course grades between female and male students for the period of fall 2007 to spring 2013. Dynamics behind this gap were explored through interpretative discourse analysis on interviews of 21 students who had recently passed the course. A recurring pattern was identified in the interviews. Students described studying electromagnetism as either studying to pass or studying to learn. Their choice of practice was influenced by the significance recognized in the course, which primarily was discussed in relation to program affiliation. Students stressed that perceived differences, in their study context, were larger between students affiliated with different programs than between male and female students on the same program. This was supported by quantitative analysis of course grades in relation to study programs, where the grade difference between female and male students on the same program in most cases were not statistically significant. The gender gap in grades for the whole course was related to different achievements on different programs. Programs further from the discipline of physics had lower mean grades and also enrolled a larger fraction of female students. Society-wide gender differences in interest and study choice are reflected in the grades on this single course. These results displace the achievement gap from the level of individuals to that of programs, and the gender gap from a difference in achievement to a difference in study choice. We discuss the implications of this shift of perspective in relation to gender differences for both research and teaching.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. Vol. 12, no 2, 020112
National Category
Physical Sciences Educational Sciences
Research subject
Physics with specialization in Physics Education
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-267307DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevPhysEducRes.12.020112ISI: 000393396900010OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-267307DiVA: diva2:872723
Available from: 2015-11-20 Created: 2015-11-20 Last updated: 2017-04-04Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Uniformity in physics courses and student diversity: A study of learning to participate in physics
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Uniformity in physics courses and student diversity: A study of learning to participate in physics
2015 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This licentiate thesis describes an investigation of participation and achievement in undergraduate physics courses with a discourse analytical lens. Issues of unequal participation have been a growing concern for the physics education research community. At the same time, these issues have not been explored to any large extent using already developed theoretical tools from fields of social science and humanities. This thesis builds on earlier studies in physics education research but crosses disciplinary boundaries to bring in perspectives from gender studies. The two papers use a discourse theoretical framework to explore what it might mean to participate in physics, whether that is one’s primary subject or not, in courses in electromagnetism and quantum physics. A general conclusion that can be drawn from these empirical studies is that physics courses may often be taught from a narrow physics perspective, and that this may limit the possibilities for identification for many students. For instance, engineering students whose main area was not physics failed to see much significance in studying electromagnetism and then just “studied to pass”. Additionally, students on physics programmes may find that the limited positions in quantum physics which can be characterized as mainly focused on “calculating”, are hard to reconcile with their interest in physics. Using a discourse perspective, I broaden this critique to a discussion of the culture of physics: What does it mean to become a physicist and what physics culture follows from different “productions” of physicists? These results inform continued research in physics education by raising issues of identity and providing critical frameworks for exploring them. They also point to the importance of including broad views of physics in courses. Critically examining participation in physics, this thesis aims at widening the discussion and provide new ways to talk about these issues in physics education research.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: , 2015. 59 p.
Keyword
undergraduate physics education, science participation, discourse, identity, subject position, quantum physics, electromagnetism
National Category
Physical Sciences Educational Sciences Gender Studies
Research subject
Physics with specialization in Physics Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-267308 (URN)
Presentation
2015-12-18, Polhemsalen, Ångströmlaboratoriet, Lägerhyddsvägen 1, Uppsala, 10:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2016-03-18 Created: 2015-11-20 Last updated: 2016-03-18Bibliographically approved

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Andersson, StaffanJohansson, Anders

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