Self-Evaluation Tool

Based on one suggested by the Institute of physics

This Self-Assessment tool will show if your teaching is girl friendly. Work through this list and decide whether the practices happen often, sometimes or rarely in your classroom or school.

Rarely Sometimes Often

Is physics learned (and taught) in a way that is accessible and engaging for girls?

Examples in physics are often masculine such as the forces in a rugby scrum or a bullet. Girls will read this as meaning that physics is for boys. It’s good practice to use neutral examples, and don’t risk girls thinking you are being patronising by using examples from the kitchen.
Using technical language is something that physics teachers get used to so we do it without thinking. Remember that technical language can reduce students’ confidence until they are used to it. It is good practice to use non-technical language, especially with younger groups, until you are sure that they are confident using it themselves. Using every day analogies will also help girls to gain the confidence they need.
Exam specifications often focus on the physics content that has to be taught so it is tempting to start with this. Many students, and especially girls, like to see the point of what they are learning. It is good practice to use a context led approach e.g. find applications or examples of where the physics is useful.
Using a variety of questioning techniques can help to engage girls who may not respond to the standard ‘put your hand up’ approach. Girls also respond well to being asked for opinions and ideas so sessions which allow thinking and discussion will engage girls effectively.

Classroom managed to promote girls' engagement in group work

In practical work it is common for girls to take a back seat and choose to ‘take down the results; whereas the boys will often see the apparatus as ‘their territory’. It helps to build girls’ confidence with handling apparatus if the teacher assigns apparatus handling roles to girls during group work rather than the note taking roles.
Student will choose to remain in social groups in the classroom or laboratory. It can be helpful to rearrange groupings so that students are exposed to different ways of working or thinking or so that they can take different roles in groups work. Taking them outside their comfort zone can help students to realise they can work differently.

Progression routes visible

While it is straightforward to identify students’ ability through testing, it is quite common that girls will achieve highly but still lack confidence. Talking to groups of girls and reinforcing their confidence levels by ensuring they realise that they can be successful in physics makes a big difference.
Schools now have a duty to provide careers advice and guidance. The ‘careers’ pages of this website can provide very useful guidance and support.

Relevant careers promoted

Research shows that girls think that choosing physics post 16 will narrow their career choices. Using the careers information on this website can enable teachers to have access to relevant careers that they can mention when an appropriate opportunity arises.
It is useful to be able to talk about careers, beyond the obvious ones, as opportunities arise in class, so that girls can see that physics isn’t just about being a scientist or an engineer. The careers information on this website is a good starting point. The WISE website has some useful resources too at http://www.wisecampaign.org.uk/education/schools

Workforce: girls (and boys) access good physics teaching

Research shows that high quality physics teaching makes a real difference to ensuring girls can progress and gain confidence in their ability in physics. Good quality CPD, is available for example from the Institute of physics (http://www.iop.org/education/index.html) or from Science Learning Centres (https://www.sciencelearningcentres.org.uk/)
Research shows that specialist physics teaching both pre= and post 16 make a difference to students as it provides continuity.
Many schools have fewer physics teachers than teachers of other science subjects. It is important that physics teachers are deployed so that all students have access to their special skills even if this means that they teach less of the combined science classes.

Ethos of "physics is for everyone": positive perception of the subject in school

There is evidence that a positive ethos about physics across the school will influence girls to consider physics more positively when making subject choices. Some schools seem to reinforce gender stereotypes so girls disproportionately choose ‘feminine’ subjects.
Engaging students, through questionnaires, and responding to the outcomes, will make students, and particularly girls more confident that their opinions matter and this will encourage them to speak more openly about their views.
A positive attitude to physics by senior managers, where physics is actively promoted as a valuable subject will influence students and their parents and make girls more likely to consider physics as a good choice.
Actively discussing physics, the range of topics involved and where it can lead will help girls to identify the opportunities that are available to them and counter the common view that physics limits their career options.
STEM Ambassadors make excellent and inspirational role models – and come at no cost to the school! Contact your local STEMNET office for more information - http://www.stemnet.org.uk/topboxes/stem-ambassadors/

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