Banishing the Stereotype That Women Do Not Perform Well in College-Level Physics

A study led by researchers at Texas A&M University finds that the stereotype that women underperform in physics courses compared to their male peers does not hold water.

Researchers gathered data from 10,000 students over the course of 10 years. All students had taken introductory physics courses, of which exam scores and final averages were analyzed. According to the data, there was no evidence that female students performed worse in these specific courses.

To see how their findings aligned with student perceptions, they also took a snapshot of the students’ feelings about course performance, inclusion, and contributions using a short anonymous questionnaire. They found that female students had a lower perception of their performance than their male classmates.

“We believe that all students should have equal opportunities and chances for success in physics,” said Tatiana Erukhimova, Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence in physics at Texas A&M and senior author of the study. “The results of this work may help with fighting the gender stereotype threat that negatively impacts so many female students. By contributing to the body of knowledge about how gender relates to student performance, we hope that our work can be another step in dismantling the pre-conceived notion of a societal bias based on gender in physics.”

Professor Erukhimova came to Texas A&M University in 2001 as a postdoctoral researcher in the department of atmospheric sciences. She holds a master’s degree in physics from Nizhny Novgorod State University in Russia and a Ph.D. in applied physics from the Institute of Applied Physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences

The full study, “Gendered Performance Differences in Introductory Physics: A Study From a Large Land-Grant University,” was published in the journal Physical Review Physics Education Research. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/StudySTEM Fields


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