A new science curriculum : a study of pupils and teachers' perceptions of gender and science education, from a feminist, reflective practitioner's perspective

Donaldson, Linda J. (2009). A new science curriculum : a study of pupils and teachers' perceptions of gender and science education, from a feminist, reflective practitioner's perspective. EdD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000d4db

Abstract

Concerns about the low representation of women in science and technology have been voiced for many years by scientists and non-scientists alike and have been the subject of much debate and research in education by governments and individuals. Current concerns about the underachievement of boys have led to the specific issue in secondary education of girls and physics sliding down the political agenda but the continuing general decline in the numbers of pupils opting for science is a worrying trend which needs to be addressed.

Women's studies have involved looking for alternative approaches to the male dominated and orientated scientific establishment and feminist writers have discussed this area of discrimination and inequality from different standpoints. In this research, I used a feminist approach which emphasises: improving women's lives; criticising dominant systems of knowledge; being praxis-orientated and creative in order to change the way physics is taught in school.

I carried out the research through the use of semi-structured interviews with pupils and teachers to shed light on the research questions which asked why boys felt encouraged to study physics whilst girls opted for other subjects;how teachers perceived science and how a feminist perspective could be related to a new science curriculum.

The outcomes from interviews with pupils and teachers suggested ways in which physics could be more gender inclusive, by adopting interdisciplinary approaches, greater cross-curricular work and moving away from the emphasis on scientific facts towards greater debate and discussion.Further interviews with focus groups and case studies teachers pointed to possible changes and successful alternatives for physics classes through the adoption of different approaches: changing not only what was taught but how it was taught.

I then worked with curriculum development colleagues to create a new science curriculum and this was successfully implemented in classes,showing that a change in approach to teaching about physics at school level is essential and could lead to greater pupil engagement in physics classes.

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