Gender differences in conceptual understanding of Newtonian mechanics: A UK cross-institution comparison

S. Bates, R. Donnelly, C. Macphee, D. Sands, M. Birch, N.R. Walet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

We present the results of a combined study from three UK universities where we investigate the existence and persistence of a performance gender gap in conceptual understanding of Newtonian mechanics. Using the Force Concept Inventory, we find that students at all three universities exhibit a statistically significant gender gap, with males outperforming females. This gap is narrowed but not eliminated after instruction, using a variety of instructional approaches. Furthermore, we find that before instruction the quartile with the lowest performance on the diagnostic instrument comprises a disproportionately high fraction (∼50%) of the total female cohort. The majority of these students remain in the lowest-performing quartile post-instruction. Analysis of responses to individual items shows that male students outperform female students on practically all items on the instrument. Comparing the performance of the same group of students on end-of-course examinations, we find no statistically significant gender gaps.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)421-434
Number of pages14
JournalEuropean Journal of Physics
Volume34
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013

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