Nut, vertrouwen, toegankelijkheid : wat docenten kunnen doen opdat meer meisjes natuurkunde gaan kiezen

A. Alting

    Research output: ThesisPhd Thesis 1 (Research TU/e / Graduation TU/e)

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    The research reported in this thesis investigated which characteristics of physics education in the second year (comparable to the eighth grade) of Dutch secondary general education correlate significantly with positive outcomes among female students, in particular their choice of physics. The outcomes described in chapters 5 through 8 show that the relevant characteristics to improve female student’s participation can be summarized as ‘Usefulness, trust and accessibility’. More attention should be paid to usefulness of physics in physics lessons and in career guidance, the teacher should show trust in female students’ capabilities in physics and physics should be accessible to all students in regards to difficulty, variation in topics, a well-organized classroom and clearly structured subject matter. Scarcity of physics teachers could undermine accessibility to physics education for female students and possibly other under-represented groups as well. Schools and teachers should be aware of this possibility. Recommendations in chapter 9 are directed at emphasizing the usefulness of physics for continuing education and further careers, in physics instruction and in career guidance. Teachers should become aware of their own expectations about choices and achievements of female students and the factors that influence their expectations, they should give encouraging advice about the choice of physics and the technical sector and refrain from a one-sided, specialistic and selection driven physics instruction in the eighth grade. They should use students’ grades in math instead as an indicator for future succes in physics and the technical sector, and use a clearly structured, student-oriented physics book, that contains no stereotyping usage and illustrations. On the school level actions should be taken to prevent disruptive behavior of some male students, e.g., by offering separate groups for ‘problem- classes’ or enable teachers to attend schooling in dealing with disruptive student behavior. Research could be directed at the choice of a sector in the new ‘VMBO’, and the influence of possible gender-specific teacher expectations, at the content of the new subject ‘Practical Sector Orientation (PSO) from an equal opportunities perspective, at the influence of scarcity of teachers and resources on female and minority participation in physics and technology, and at the predictive value of the math grades for success in physics and the technology sector. Finally, research should be done about the effects of offering physics ‘in context’, especially with respect to female students’ experience of difficulty and relevance. Chapter 1 shows that , since the start of secondary general education in 1971, until the introduction of the new curriculum in 1993, the ‘Basisvorming’, the percentage of female students who chose physics as an examinination subject showed only very little progress. The new curriculum has not changed this situation, partly as a consequence of the dilution of equal opportunity objectives and not implementing objectives concerning career orientation, which were expected to have a favorable effect on the participation of female students by the Ministry of Education. Combined with the transfer of the responsibility for educational equal opportunities development to the schools themselves, not requiring job qualifications with regards to gender issues from teachers, and the lack of enthousiasm among physics teachers in secondary general education to take action to improve the participation of female students in physics, it is not surprising that physics still is the most pronounced ‘male territory’ in Dutch secondary education. Although at the national level only few female students chose (and still choose) physics at the senior secondary level, the situation differed from school to school and from teacher to teacher. This study had to provide answers to the question whether differences in the percentages of female students who chose physics, could be attributed to differences in teacher and learning environment characteristics. We were interested in both characteristics that can be influenced by a teacher, defined as endogenous characteristics, as well as characteristics that cannot be influenced by an individual teacher, defined as exogenous characteristics. The research questions were: 1a."What do we know already about characteristics of good physics instruction for female students, that can be influenced by teachers?" 1b."Is it possible, based on previous research, practical experience and theory, to develop a coherent picture of the desired physics education for female students, defined as ‘Ideal State’?" 2. "To what extent does the existing situation in physics education satisfy Ideal State characteristics?" 3. "How strong is the relation between choice of physics (or another student outcome) with endogenous and exogenous characteristics of the teacher, the learning environment and the students themselves?" 4. "To what extent can actual desired outcomes be related to the extent to which the physics instruction satisfies the Ideal State?" 5. "What can be attributed to the influence of the teacher and what other factors play a role (in female students’ physics participation)?" Research question 3 was elaborated into three subquestions: 3a. "What distinguishes the, in regards to choice of physics by female students, most and least successful classrooms from each other?" 3b. "What is the relation of a certain characteristic with the percentage of female students in a class who continued physics?" 3c."To what extent does choice of physics by a female student correlate with the extent to which a certain characteristic applied to her situation?" Question 1a is answered in chapter 2. In chapter 2 the development of the Ideal State and the Ideal State itself is described. The Ideal State consists of a systematic overview of characteristics of the teacher and the learning environment that were supposed to favorably influence the participation of female students in physics education. ‘Participation’ encompasses students’ experience of physics, their academic self-concept, achievements and the intended and actual choice of physics. Similar to the approach proposed by Kahle (1992, 1995), the Ideal State is based on research outcomes and initially it had to serve as a standard that the actual situation could be compared with, to discover shortcomings and good practices in the existing situation. The next step would be to formulate specific recommendations to improve female students’ participation in physics education. The Ideal State had to be formulated in terms of what teachers can do. In the Ideal State a distinction is made between teacher and learning environment characteristics. Teacher characteristics are ‘problem awareness in actions’, i.e., in their teaching methodological approach, group directed behaviors in general, and their evaluation and guidance of individual students. Teachers should treat female and male students equally where appropriate, take into account gender differences, and compensate for the stereotypical masculine image of physics and stereotyping behaviors of students. Characteristics of the learning environment concern the subject-independent classclimate and the subject specific operation curriculum. Both should be student-oriented, i.e., take into account individual differences, be non-competetive and clearly structured. In chapter 4 these characteristics were made operational in questionnaires, with the help of existing and newly developed research instruments. In chapter 3 it becomes clear that the prescriptive nature of the Ideal State in Kahle’s view could not be fulfilled. The Ideal State cannot be at all times a successful recipe for improving female students’ participation in physics. However, it could be considered as a still to be proven ‘hypothesis’, or prototype, for good practices to improve female students’ participation in physics lessons, that could serve to identify the relevant characteristics to be studied and to formulate the research questions. Chapter 3 discusses the extent to which the candidate Ideal State fulfills instruction-theoretical criteria formulated by Reigeluth (1983, 1987). This chapter also describes the development of the research model, with the help of Eccles’ model of academic choice (in: Meece et al., 1982) and several explorative educational models (e.g., Rennie, 1988). The research model illustrates the expected relations between teacher and learning environment characteristics and experience and coice of physics by the student. A disinction is made between characteristics under the influence of the teacher -endogenous characteristics-, and characteristics that cannot be changed by the teacher, the exogenous characteristics. In the research model it is assumed that teacher and learning environment characteristics influence the choice of physics indirectly, through their influence on students’ experience of, achievements in, and academic self-image. However, a direct influence on the intended choice is also assumed in the research model. The analyses described in chapters 5 through 7 show, that most teacher and learning environment characteristics have stronger correlations with the ultimate choice of physics, than with students’ experience of, and achievements in, physics. An exception is formed by the experiential aspect ‘Liking the physics lessons’, that does correlate rather strongly with several characteristics of the class climate, but ‘Liking’ in its turn provides no contribution to the explanation of choice when ‘Usefulness’ and ‘Ease’ (of physics) have been accounted for. Perceived ease also correlates with several curriculum characteristics, in particular a broad treatment of subject matter. Several characteristics could not be measured, because of problems with the interpretation and construction of the scales for ‘Competition’, ‘Concept clarification’, and appreciation of non-cognitive achievements. The interpretation of the class climate scale ‘Rule Clarity’ should probably be the opposite of what was meant initially. Despite its limitations, the scale 'Concept clarification' could be useful to determine to what extent some constructivist principles have been implemented since the 1990's
    Original languageDutch
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Applied Physics
    • Plomp, T., Promotor, External person
    • Sluijter, F.W., Promotor
    Award date5 Jul 2003
    Place of PublicationEindhoven
    Publication statusPublished - 2003

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