Step 1: Action Research:Decide on your intervention.
To decide on your intervention, you will need to consider what the research says, what the situation is in your own classroom and school, and which aspects you have the power to change.
What does educational research tell me?
What is the situation in my classroom and school?<br>
What can I change?
What does educational research tell me?
Factors affecting girls’ attitudes
Educational researchers have collected a great deal of evidence about why girls are less likely to continue with physics than boys. In their review of the literature, Murphy and Whitelegg (2006) distilled this into three major factors that shape the way students feel about physics.
1. How they see themselves in relation to physics, including its perceived relevance and whether they feel competent in it (known as physics “self-concept”).
2. Their experiences of physics at school.
3. A personally supportive physics teacher.
Based on these factors,one can identify six areas of good practice that could improve attitudes.
1. Learning and teaching.
2. Classroom management
6. Culture and ethos
Each of the areas of good practice areas contains a cluster of several smaller actions or pedagogies. Choosing a single action or pedagogy is an ideal starting point for action research. Some further detail on each area of good practice and the cluster of effective pedagogies within it is provided in the table below.
- pdf version (click here)
What is the situation in my classroom and school?
What is the situation in my classroom and school? Once you have an understanding of the broader themes in the literature, the next stage is to understand the specific situation in your classroom and school. The girls in your classes may be experiencing different types of barriers, so understanding where these lie will help you target your intervention accordingly. Making links between the literature themes and your local context will help towards making a meaningful change in girls’ participation. There are four key sources of information that you can use to do this. You may wish to use more than one.
Attainment and other data
School-level data (including analysis) could include attainment at national exams, such as at O-level A-level.
- Use the self-evaluation checklist to reflect on your own/your department’s/your school’s
practice. Please click here for the self-evaluation check list.
- Use the Theory of Change to reflect on aspects of change and to identify effective pedagogies
that you could try out.
- Try to identify which interventions appeal to you.
The self-evaluation checklist will have helped you identify the practices that could be improved. But you also need to look at an area where you have the power to make a change. For example, if you’ve only recently started teaching you will have lots of control over what happens in your classroom, but perhaps less influence at departmental or school level. In contrast, if you’re a member of the senior management team you might have less teaching time, but be in a position to make changes that relate to the workforce or school culture.
Feedback from students
- Another source of information about the reality of the current situation for your students is to ask them. Asking for feedback on your teaching directly from students can be a daunting yet rewarding task.
- Try gathering some information about barriers in your classroom by using a questionnaire in
or convening a focus group with some students in your class.A pre-questionaire on students’ attitudes can be a big wake up call to the department. One such sample can be found here.
Feedback from colleagues
Your colleagues are a significant source of information on the context within your school and classroom. Teachers who took part in action research projects in this area strongly recommended involving others in the department to bounce ideas off as well as to help extend the impact of successful interventions. There are several ways that you could engage colleagues in what you’re doing.
- Raise the topic at a departmental meeting.
- Convene an “advisory group” for your project – this could be a couple of colleagues who you can
meet with informally at different stages of the project to share your progress.
- Ask another teacher, teaching assistant or senior staff member to observe a class for you, with a specific focus on girl-friendly teaching (they could use the self-evaluation checklist provided above.
- Attend a course/science proffesional development session in your District to start discussions with teachers at other schools that are interested in girls and physics.(e.g SESEMAT
Teachers’ top tips
You may now have several areas of interest for a potential intervention. The tips are presented here to help you decide on the intervention you would like to use for your project. They include:-
- make physics relevant;
- remember good teaching practice;
- let students choose an approach that suits them;
- share experiences with colleagues;
- use action research as a tool for change;
- highlight students’ voices.
Each of these themes,on how to make them work, is described in greater below.
Making physics relevant
- Teachers should try many approaches to make physics more relevant to girls.
- Including material on physics careers and careers from physics in class can be highly successful approaches in this area; however, quite common are the inability of some students to articulate their careers aspirations and a lack of knowledge about career options among teachers.
- Creating opportunities in lessons for students to explore the social relevance of physics (including the roles of physicists) can be powerful.
- Real-life experiences with work experience and role models were also effective in “bringing physics to life”. “Link physics to everyday relevant experiences.” “Show relevance to people and careers – build links into schemes of work.”
“Check and counter girls’ negative perceptions about abilities.”
DO NOT tell pupils “I’m not very good at physics”. DO tell pupils “everyone can do physics”.
Remember good teaching practice
- Some of the successes and challenges in helping engage girls with physics are related to practice in science teaching generally. Interventions are most effective when they built on good practice. In a few cases the gender-specific aspect should NOT be given too much priority to the detriment of the overall classroom experience.
- Students should be empowered by being able to demonstrate their understanding of a concept using everyday language.
- Structuring groups and assigning roles can result in greater engagement from students, who were able to remain better focused on the task at hand.
Let students choose an approach that suits them
Related to good teaching practice, an individualised learning approach works well. Including an element of choice for students in activities help them feel in control of their learning;