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Details of talk

TitleA Leaky Pipe Dream? A Study of Gender Differences in Undergraduate Physics
PresenterFrederique Vanholsbeeck (The University of Auckland)
Author(s)Frederique Vanholsbeeck
SessionGender Equity and Diversity in Mathematics
Time14:00:00 2017-09-26

Students face diverse pathways as they journey through undergraduate study. The
analysis of student course records can untangle common patterns in course
progression, and identify group trends in student outcomes. 
The current work examines the relationship between gender and undergraduate
physics study, using course records from over nine thousand students who
enrolled in physics at the University of Auckland, spanning a six year period.

Physics students' demographic and course records were analyzed to find out
whether there were gender differences in subject selection, course performance,
and confidence. 
Subsequent to taking a first year physics course, female students were more
likely to take further courses in life science subjects, while male students
were more likely to take physical science subjects. 
In first year courses, gender differences were not present among highly
academically prepared students, for whom school type (single-sex or
coeducational) was a better predictor of course outcome. However, of those
students who were less academically prepared in their first year, male students
tended to outperform female students. Female students were also more likely to
take an introductory physics course before an advancing course, compared to male
students, after controlling for academic preparation.

Science capital [1], a concept related to Pierre Bourdieu's notions of capital
and habitus, was employed as an interpretive research framework. Habitus, the
system of dispositions one uses to interpret the world, is largely influenced by
the socio-cultural context in which an individual builds their identity. The
following study explains how an interaction between science capital and an
individual's habitus may lead to gender disparities in student outcomes in the
field of physics.

Taken together, our findings suggests that physics may not be seen as a domain
that is welcoming to female students, and the science capital framework allows
us to understand why this may be the case. Although our study outlines findings
from one particular sample of students, the methodology and research framework
has universal applications.

\item[{[1]}] Archer, Louise and DeWitt, Jennifer and Willis, Beatrice,
``Adolescent Boys' Science Aspirations: Masculinity, Capital, and Power'',
 \emph{Journal of Research in Science Teaching}, v51, n1, 2014, pp. 1--30,
Wiley Online Library.

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