Thursday, July 24, 2008
Physics Education Research Conference, AAPT Summer Meeting, University of Alberta (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada)
We investigated the effect of physics education research-based teaching methods on the gender gap in conceptual understanding in introductory physics. We analyzed data from the introductory calculus-based mechanics course for non-majors at Harvard University taught traditionally and taught with different degrees of interactive engagement. On average, female students have lower Force Concept Inventory (FCI) pretest scores than males. Teaching with Peer Instruction not only yields significantly greater FCI posttest scores for both males and females but also reduces the FCI posttest gender gap. Teaching with several interactive components (Peer Instruction, Tutorials in Introductory Physics, and Just-in-Time Teaching) eliminates the FCI posttest gender gap, and no gender disparity exists in grades, in spite of females lower FCI pretest scores. We also analyzed data from the algebra-based mechanics course; although the gender gap reduction is not as pronounced as in the calculus-based course, interactive teaching also reduces the gender gap.