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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Female student perceptions of single-sex physics instruction Brendel, Sylvia Doris


Many students, and a particularly high proportion of females, do not study physics in high schools. Research indicates that segregation by sex may help encourage increased enrolment of females in subject areas that have been traditionally male dominated. The main objective of this study was to explore and document female student perceptions of a single-sex physics class in a coeducational public high school. Data were drawn from a questionnaire and a personal interview. All 20 students participated in the questionnaire presented during class time and 17 of the students volunteered to be interviewed. Appendices include the student questionnaire and interview questions. Significant findings of the study include: 1. Class participation did increase due to the relaxed atmosphere of the class. 2. There was little interest in single-sex instruction for other subjects. 3. Prior to the course, students anticipated the content to be difficult. 4. Once in the course, the perception of difficulty was reduced. 5. Student lack of involvement in the decision-making process leads to student misunderstandings about the purposes of the intervention. 6. There was frustration with the knowledge of the other grade 12 physics class ahead in the curriculum. 7. The sex of the teacher was not perceived as crucial for providing a role model. 8. Single-sex instruction as an isolated strategy may trivialize gender equity. The findings of this study suggest that for the majority of the students, the intervention has made no difference in their lives as females or as students of physics. All but one of the students had previously decided to study physics regardless of the school's program. Parental influence, rather than the program, was a major factor in the decision to study physics. If increased female enrolment is a purpose of single-sex physics instruction, then schools need to reach potential physics students prior to high school, and before high-school course decisions are made. There are a number of factors involved in the low participation rates of women in scientific and technological professions. The best strategies are those designed in consideration of, and collaboration with, the many factors that are involved in the lives of girls and science. Perhaps the most significant finding of the study is that interventions that are designed and implemented must also be monitored and evaluated as professional evidence of responsible accountability to society, parents, and students.

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