‘In 2011 46% of schools sent no girls on to study A level Physics.’
As a physicist and a feminist (fem-ally), the above statistic obviously had a massive impact on my core purpose.
I started at gender-specific examples mainly because I thought it was ridiculous. How would talking about ice skating or ballet enthuse girls into Physics? (Are all girls dreaming about becoming an ice skating ballerinas?); But after my self-analysis (see earlier post) I wasn’t taking anything for granted.
I planned different gendered examples for 3 different key stage 4 classes – teaching forces, D-T and V-T graphs.
1. Traditionally taught- trolleys, ticker tape, train videos, etc (gender neutral).
2. Superhero physics – looking at the impulse of Spider-Man, hulks jumping power and the size of Superman’s home planet (male-biased).
3. Cristiano Ronaldo versus Bugatti – we looked at an old Nike advert and looked at the authenticity of it (supposedly ven more male-biased).
Well, I analysed their progress against their target grades in a series of exam papers.
Caveat time, I’m not saying that the microcosm of my classroom is a reflection of all lessons everywhere. This was one practitioner’s experience of action research.
Best progress in ranked order was,
1. Ronaldo Vs Bugatti
The girls did best when looking at the most male examples, it’s worth saying that everyone did better here. The girl’s progress was much more profound.
Anecdotally I asked my girls their thoughts on why they performed better on that unit. They responded saying that they liked the fact they could see the example and that it wasn’t like a ‘magical invisible thing like energy’.
Since that day, I’ve urged my follows to contextualise every lesson they teach.