Saturday lunchtime plenary – gender issues & equity in introductory physics

Saturday 10 March, 12:05 – 12:55
Introductory Physics…With an Eye to Inclusion
Rachel Henderson, West Virginia University

Diversity and inclusion has been a concern for the physics community for 50 years. Despite significant efforts including the American Physical Society (APS) Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP) and the APS Bridge Program, women, African Americans, and Hispanics continue to be substantially underrepresented in the physics profession. Similar efforts within the field of engineering, whose students make up the majority of students in the introductory calculus-based physics courses, have also met with limited success. With the introduction of research-based instruments such as the Force Concept Inventory (FCI), differences in performance by gender began to be reported. As researchers, we have yet to come to an agreement as to why these “gender gaps” exist in the various conceptual inventories that are widely used in physics education research and or how to reduce the gaps.

Rachel Henderson is a sixth year graduate student finishing up her PhD in Physics Education Research (PER) at West Virginia University. Working with Drs. John and Gay Stewart, she has focused her research on how classroom diversity and inclusion impact scores on conceptual physics assessments in the introductory physics classroom. Her research has demonstrated that there are features of PER conceptual instruments that are not equally fair for men and women and has suggested ways to remove this unfairness.

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