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Thursday, June 23 • 15:00 - 16:00
CON08.10c - (Un)Expected Gender Differences in Introductory Physics

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The Force Concept Inventory (FCI; Hestenes et al. 1992) is a standard tool for probing understanding of core concepts in introductory physics. The FCI’s ability to highlight specific student misconceptions has made it a standard for measuring the efficacy of introductory physics teaching (McDermott & Redish, 1999). The reliability of the FCI is an important issue for those wishing to use it as a diagnostic tool. It is essential to identify any factors other than understanding of physics that affect FCI scores and gains. Studies in the US (e.g. Madsen et al. 2013 and references therein) and one study in the UK (Bates et al. 2013) have shown differences between the FCI performances of male and female students. We investigated whether such differences exist in our setting, i.e. a mid-size Canadian university. 434 men and 379 women taking introductory physics courses over the past nine years completed the FCI prior to and following instruction. A comparison of the scores revealed a gender gap in the pre-instruction and post-instruction scores in favour of male students (p < 0.01). There also existed a gap in the gains from pre- to post-test. Students in classes that included interactive engagement methods had higher gains than students in traditional lecture courses, but interactive engagement had no impact on the gender gap (p < 0.01). This is in contrast to the results of Lorenzo et al. (2006) but consistent with Pollock et al. (2007).

From our presentation, participants will come to understand that concept inventories, while useful tools for assessing teaching practices, may be affected by matters other than understanding of course material. Further, participants will become aware that puzzling gender-based differences persist in some assessment results and that the root cause remains a mystery that urgently needs to be resolved.

avatar for Magdalen Normandeau

Magdalen Normandeau

Physics & astronomy instructor + coordinator of Teaching & Learning Services, UNB
Magdalen Normandeau is a physics instructor and the coordinator of Teaching & Learning Services at UNB-Fredericton. Her disciplinary research area was in astrophysics but now her focus is on teaching and learning.

Additional Authors

Benedict Newling

Benedict Newling is a physics professor at UNB. His disciplinary research is in materials magnetic resonance imaging but over the past few years he has become involved in SoTL research as well.

Seshu Iyengar

Seshu Iyengar is a second year undergraduate BA-BSc student at UNB with interests in physics and philosophy.

Thursday June 23, 2016 15:00 - 16:00 EDT
UCC 65

Attendees (7)