Issues

Key pieces of research have highlighted a number of issues for girls in particular
(and these also apply for many boys as well):

Click on the issues, below, that you see in your school to find a solution and tool to address each issue.

TOOLS

The Problem

Physics lessons often go from beginning to end with no student interaction beyond the odd question from the teacher. These lessons have little discussion or engaging activity or practical work.

The Solution

Divide the lesson into a range of different activities with some that deliberately engage the students in discussion as well as answering questions based on recall of facts.

TOOLS

The Problem

Sometimes girls think they are going to find concepts hard and this can result in increased levels of adrenalin, which can trigger an emotional response that interferes with learning. This can range from simply switching off when things seem too tricky, to an actual physical response of anxiety including dry mouth, shortness of breath and difficulty concentrating.

The Solution

Talk to individual or small groups to girls to ‘diagnose’ what they think they are finding difficult and to see if there are any genuine misconceptions that are getting in the way. Then explain carefully in a way that they are happy with.

TOOLS

The Problem

Physics has its own carefully defined set of concepts, but often the specific physics vocabulary is introduced too early in a lesson which can leave some students struggling to be 'interpreters' of this specialist language, and so lose track of the concepts being discussed.

The Solution

Treat part of the lesson as a ‘language lesson’ deliberately talking about how the meanings of words in physics are specific and different from their usual meaning in English.

TOOLS

The Problem

This is about relevance, which can often be confused with career paths. Actually the idea of relevance is only partly to do with 'you could be a civil engineer'; it is more about including how each physics principle works in the real world as opposed to the schoolroom.

The Solution

Make a point of finding an application to talk about in each lesson – these should be as varied as possible. For example, health, environmental, food, clothes, transport, communications, space, etc.

TOOLS

The Problem

Often boys are more active and engaged in lessons (both as contributors and as disturbers) and take up more of the teachers’ time and effort. This can leave girls in a position of non-participation. As girls may be well behaved and don’t demand attention the teacher may not seek to draw them out and their comments can be overlooked.

The Solution

Make a conscious effort to talk to the girls in small groups to find out what they think about the activity and about the topic.

TOOLS

The Problem

Girls are the largest group that is stereotyped as less interested in physics. However the UK is different from most other countries in this. There is no reason why girls cannot do or enjoy physics so it’s an entirely cultural thing not a girl thing. There are others that can find themselves labelled (or self label) as less 'naturally' capable in physics such as working class white boys, Afro Caribbean boys.

The Solution

Make sure that examples of women doing physics based careers are included in teaching and feature on posters. Invite female speakers into the school (especially if there are few female science teachers).