Research by dB-SERC community members

Female students with A’s have similar physics self-efficacy as male students with C’s in introductory courses: A cause for alarm?

  • E. Marshman, Z. Y. Kalender, T. Nokes-Malach, C. Schunn, and C. Singh, Phys. Rev. PER 14, 020123 (2018)
    • This investigation shows that Female students with A’s had similar physics self-efficacy as male students with C’s in introductory courses female students. In fact, female students had lower self-efficacy than male students at all performance levels in both physics 1 and physics 2. The self-efficacy gaps continued to grow throughout the introductory physics course sequence, regardless of course format (i.e., traditional or flipped) and instructor. The findings suggest that female students’ self-efficacy was negatively impacted by their experiences in introductory physics courses, and this result is persistent across various instructors and course formats. Female students’ lower self-efficacy compared to similarly performing male students can result in detrimental short-term and long-term impacts. 

A longitudinal analysis of students’ motivational characteristics in introductory physics courses: Gender differences

  • E. Marshman, Z. Y. Kalender, C. Schunn, T. Nokes-Malach, and C. Singh, Can. J. Phys. 96 (4), 391 (2018)
    • This investigation focused on longitudinal analysis of students’ motivational characteristics in two-semester introductory physics courses by administering pre- and post-surveys that evaluated students’ self-efficacy, grit, fascination with physics, value associated with physics, intelligence mindset, and physics epistemology. We found that female students reported lower levels of self-efficacy, fascination, and value associated with physics, and held a more “fixed” view of intelligence in the context of physics compared to male students. Female students’ fascination and value associated with physics decreased significantly more than males’ after an introductory physics course sequence. In addition, females’ view of physics intelligence became more “fixed” compared to males’ by the end of an introductory physics course sequence. Grit was the only factor on which females reported averages that were equal to or higher than males throughout introductory physics courses.

Do evidence-based active-engagement courses reduce the gender gap in introductory physics?

  • N. Karim, A. Maries and C. Singh, Eur. J. Phys. 39, 025701 (2018)
    • The research presented here shows that evidence-based active engagement methods help all students but INCREASE the gender gap in performance in that they do not help women in calculus-based introductory physics courses as much as men. One hypothesis for why this may be the case is that evidence-based active-engagement courses often involve collaborative learning (students working with each other). Without explicit interventions by the instructors, in these collaborative situations, societal stereotypes about physics, e.g., who is capable of excelling in physics may become very salient. In other words, in evidence-based courses, collaborations may not yield enhanced outcomes for women in the same proportion as men is that in collaborative settings, underrepresented groups are often under stereotype threat and have self-efficacy issues and lack a sense of belonging which thwarts learning (potentially other underrepresented students such as racial and ethnic minorities may have similar difficulties in collaborative setting without explicit intervention by the instructors)

Is agreeing with a gender stereotype correlated with the performance of female students in introductory physics?

  • A. Maries, N. Karim and C. Singh, Phys Rev Phys Educ Res 14, 020119 (2018)
    • This investigation shows that at the end of a calculus-based physics course sequence, women who agreed with gender stereotypes about physics (and were more likely to have higher stereotype threats compared to other women who did not agree with gender stereotypes) performed worse on conceptual standardized survey at the end of the course than women who disagreed with it even though there was no statistically significant difference at the beginning of the course between their performance (i.e., over the course of introductory physics sequence, the difference in physics performance appeared even though there was no difference initially). One hypothesis is that the women who agreed with the gender stereotypes may have higher levels of stereotype threats which could at least partly be responsible for the end of the semester difference in performance.