Girls and physics: continuing barriers to 'belonging'

Murphy, Patricia and Whitelegg, Elizabeth (2006). Girls and physics: continuing barriers to 'belonging'. Curriculum Journal, 17(3) pp. 281–305.



The article discusses selected findings of a narrative review,funded by the Institute of Physics,in response to the continuuing decline in the number of girls studying physics post-16 in England. 177 sources, of national and international research literature were reviewed. In the article the authors argue that gender and science are mutually constitutive and girls' participation in physics education, historically and currently needs to be understood in relation to this.Prior achievement and perceptions of the difficulty of physics are determinants of students' decisions about whether to continue to study physics. These influences may be heightened for girls by gendered historical associations about who is and is not competent in mathematics and physics. Interest and enjoyment in physics also influence course choices, particularly those of girls, and these decline relative to other sciences through schooling, more so for girls than for boys.This decline is not disrupted by single-sex organisation. The contents, contexts and ways of approaching problems and investigations in physics more closely reflect what boys, more than girls, engage with outside of school, and those activities associated with cultural definitions of masculine and feminine attributes. These exert a negative influence on girls' engagement with physics, their sense of self-efficacy in relation to it, and their percpetion of its personal relevance.research demonstrates that this can be disrupted by changes in curriculum and pedagogy. Developments in science education in England the authors argue, do not challenge the gender-science relationship and their impact on girls' participation may be linmited as a consequence.

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