Encouraging girls into physics
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Encouraging Girls into Physics. Terry Marsh, Ruth Merrett, UK Intel Educator Academy, Los Angeles 11 th May 2011. Overview. Why does it matter? New research into the learning process Support for trainee teachers Call to action. Why does it matter?.

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Encouraging girls into physics

Encouraging Girls into Physics

Terry Marsh, Ruth Merrett, UK

Intel Educator Academy, Los Angeles

11th May 2011


Overview

Overview

Why does it matter?

New research into the learning process

Support for trainee teachers

Call to action


Why does it matter

Why does it matter?

The future increasingly depends on emerging technologies

So each country needs the best scientists and engineers possible

A large proportion of hard-to fill vacancies are Physics-based

Many of the most talented girls are turning their backs on Physics-based study and careers

The loss to the UK economy of under-used female talent has been estimated to be more than £2 billion


Why does it matter1

Why does it matter?

The future increasingly depends on emerging technologies

So each country needs the best scientists and engineers possible

A large proportion of hard-to fill vacancies are Physics-based

Many of the most talented girls are turning their backs on Physics-based study and careers

The loss to the UK economy of under-used female talent has been estimated to be more than £2 billion


Statistics 16 year olds

Statistics:16-year-olds

The has been a large increase in the number of girls studying Physics

as part of a government drive to ‘triple science’


Statistics 18 year olds

Statistics:18-year-olds

No equivalent increase in the number of girls continuing with Physics


Statistics 18 year olds1

Statistics:18-year-olds

93% of girls qualified to study Physics at advanced level

walk away from it

No equivalent increase in the number of girls continuing with Physics


Standard ways to tackle this issue

Standard ways to tackle this issue

Focus on the girls themselves

This is only ‘shouting louder’

– more of the same is making no difference

Increase emphasis on variety of careers in science/engineering

Set up after school club

Instigate competitions and awards

‘Girlify’ the curriculum

Send out more literature


Why do many girls dislike physics

Why do many girls dislike Physics?

  • Find it boring, too much teacher talk

  • Find the concepts hard to understand

  • Find the language hard to understand

  • Can’t see the purpose of it

  • Think nobody listens to girls’ perspectives

  • In the WISE research no Physics lesson was remembered as ‘my best science lesson ever’


Try this activity

Try this activity

Think of a school subject you did not like

Take a couple of minutes to talk with your neighbour how you felt about that subject

Include how you felt doing the homework

Find some words you have in common


Common themes

Common themes

Feel ill, sick when thinking of the lesson

Stressed when trying but not understanding

‘I’ve always hated it, always will’

Increased levels of anxiety

Lacking confidence about my ability to pursue the subject further


What this session is about

What this session is about

The neuroscientific body of literature ... presents affect as having primacy over cognition, and having the capability of influencing, attenuating, and even subjugating cognition. Affect is revealed as paramount in significance to human mental processes such as learning, and crucial to survival, social functioning, and human wellbeing. Neuroscientific evidence of brain/body interaction, the primacy of emotion in human functioning, and neuropsychological data of behavioural influence elicited by affect requires the attention of educational researchers, especially educational neuroscientists, and is quite likely to eventuate in some profound changes and shifts in educational theory and practice.

The Somatic Appraisal Model of Affect:

Paradigm for educational neuroscience and neuropedagogy_712 87..97

Kathryn E. Patten

Educational Neuroscience Laboratory, Simon Fraser University


To get the gist of it

To get the gist of it

Learning is not just a rational thing

Even ‘background’ emotions can impede learning

This can be observed by watching the internal functioning of the brain with MRI scans

It is important that researchers work to understand these processes better

Their results are likely to bring about a change in the very way we teach and learn


Learning and neuroscience

Learning and neuroscience

The neuroscientific body of literature ...

presents affect as having primacy over cognition,

and having the capability of influencing, attenuating, and even subjugating cognition.

Affect is revealed as paramount in significance to human mental processes such as learning,

and crucial to survival, social functioning, and human wellbeing.


Learning and neuroscience1

Learning and neuroscience

Neuroscientific evidence of brain/body interaction,

the primacy of emotion in human functioning,

and

neuropsychological data of behavioural influence elicited by affect

requires the attention of educational researchers, especially educational neuroscientists,

and is quite likely to eventuate in some

profound changes and shifts in educational theory and practice.


Affective neuroscience

Affective neuroscience

  • Affective neuroscience is the study of the neural mechanisms of emotion - what goes on in the brain when we feel

  • Cross disciplinary - working with

    • Neuroscience

    • Psychology

    • Behavioural sciences

    • Sports science

    • Proteomics

    • Philosophy

  • It is a relatively new science focussing on

    the brain’s Limbic system


The limbic system and emotions

The Limbic system and emotions


The amygdala

The Amygdala

  • Two almond shape bodies deep in the brain

    • Key to the formation and storage of memories associated with emotional events

  • They drive ‘instantaneous’ responses to ‘threat’

    • physical or psychological

    • The ‘amygdala hijack’

  • They participate in ‘emotional memory’

    • Unconscious memory

  • Involved in the regulation of cognitive functions

    • E.g. attention, perception, and explicit memory

  • They contribute to longer term anxiety


The limbic system and learning

The Limbic system and learning

Teacher joked about my efforts

after Philippe Goldin, Stanford University


How does this relate to girls and physics

How does this relate to girls and Physics?

  • Many people view particular school subjects with an immediate and negative response

    • This is a learned response working through the amygdala

  • Girls in particular are influenced by teaching which does not take the affective domain into account

  • Repeated unpleasant emotions associated with the subject have built this response

  • It could be hard to change this reaction to a particular subject by mere cognitive methods

    • i.e. telling students that Physics will lead to a good job

  • Change can only be brought about through attention to the emotional experience


Negative emotions in the classroom

Negative emotions in the classroom

Social defeat – public humiliation

Negative self-belief

Specific painful social memory - I’m not good enough

Self deprecation

Negative rumination – brooding


Three related research projects

Three related research projects

  • Tonbridge School/Cambridge University

    • mindfulness research

  • Max Plank Institute

    • Coping with psycho-social stress

  • Stanford University

    • Got an hour? Boost your grades


Cambridge being aware

Cambridge – being aware

  • Ten week course with Tonbridge school

  • Addressing anxiety and worry inside and outside the classroom

  • Offering techniques to

    • Explore how attention works

    • Recognise how we ruminate and catastrophise

    • Be Here Now

  • Half the students reported positive benefits

    • Only 7% wanted to stop the work


Max plank coping with public stress

Max Plank - coping with public stress

  • Trier Social Stress Test

    • Mock job interview

    • Public mental arithmetic

    • Errors pointed out

  • Participants needed positive coping strategies to avoid increased stress in subsequent testing

  • Largest stress responses and the longest recovery times

    • Feeling out of control, not knowing what will happen

    • Being judged as wanting – ‘social-evaluative threat’


Stanford people like me

Stanford - ‘people like me’

“Having a teacher say something negative to you could seem like proof that you don’t belong, and maybe evidence that your group doesn’t belong either. That feeling could lead you to work less hard and ultimately do less well.“

One hour session to explore and understand that everyone feels like that at first

By writing about older students’ experiences of overcoming these feelings, students internalise and personalise

22% of those who participated were in the top quartile on graduation, as opposed to only 5% of those who did not


Wise created a self reflection game

WISE created a self-reflection game


Common themes link to classrooms

Common themes link to classrooms

Anxiety can interfere with the task in hand

The task of teaching and learning is seen as more important than the process

So, results orientation can ironically sabotage the achieving of good results


Wise research into girls and physics

WISE research into girls and Physics

  • Pupil perception of Physics teaching

    • Research project funded by the UKRC

  • Questionnaires and focus groups for pupils

    • Common themes

  • Focus group for student teachers

    • Gender had not been highlighted in training

    • The danger for them as ‘technical specialists’ to be too task oriented

    • Some misconceptions re encouraging girls

  • Output was a student teacher website addressing issues and tools


Remember why girls dislike physics

Remember why girls dislike Physics?

  • Find it boring, too much teacher talk

  • Find the concepts hard to understand

  • Find the language hard to understand

  • Can’t see the purpose of it

  • Think nobody listens to girls’ perspectives


Intel website for new teachers

Intel website for new teachers

Helping trainee teachers understand the causes of unhappiness in the physics classroom

Listing specific issues that research has shown to be important for girls

Offering tools to overcome these issues

Giving examples of approaches that have worked with other teachers


Encouraging girls into physics

www.girlfriendlyphysics.co.uk


Message for new physics teachers

Message for new physics teachers

Keep it interactive and practical

Use analogies and metaphors

Use everyday language to ‘get the gist’

Relate it to everyday life (not merely ‘careers’)

Keep checking to understand the emotional experience


Institute of physics has followed wise

Institute of Physics has followed WISE


Case study rosebery school

Case study Rosebery school

Experienced and committed Heads of Science and Careers – open to new ideas

Whole school approach

Family involvement

Cross-subject collaboration

Older students sharing experiences with younger ones


Jobs of the future

Jobs of the future...

  • Robot designers

    • for homes, offices and production plants

  • Space tour guides

    • Virgin Galactic are building a spaceport in New Mexico

  • Fuel cell technologists

    • car exhaust is water

  • Personal genome advisors

    • check out people's risk to health

  • Ubicomp technologists

    • embedding everyday objects with intelligence

  • Airship pilot

    • use dirigibles and get the lorries off the roads

  • Nanotechnologists

    • build miniature machines to work in the body


Mentoring

Mentoring


Www postcardsfromthefuture me

www.postcardsfromthefuture.me


So what do girls want

So, what do girls want?

To feel relaxed and confident in class

To participate rather than just listen and write

To be able to ‘visualise their way through’ the challenges

To experience success on a pretty regular basis


And it s not only girls

And it’s not only girls...

Others suffering from “stereotype threat”

Afro Caribbean boys

Working class boys

Pupils who disrupt classes


Call to action sstem

Call to action - SSTEM

  • Are girls opting out as they get older?

  • Are the girls performing as well as the boys?

  • Visit the Intel website

  • Anonymous questionnaires

  • Focus groups led by outsider

You need to change what you do to change what is happening

1. Sign up to a School–wide approach to addressing any inequity

2. Analyse the Statistics for your school

3. Ensure ongoing Training and Development of staff

4. Acknowledge the Emotional side to learning - ask for feedback on your teaching style and effectiveness

5. Try some action research on IoPModel


Encouraging girls into physics1

Encouraging Girls into Physics

Terry Marsh [email protected]

Ruth Merrett [email protected]

Intel Educator Academy, Los Angeles

11th May 2011


References and further reading

References and further reading

Student Teacher website - Intel

Postcards from the Future - WISE (UK)

Physics and Engineering Mindmaps - WISE (UK)

Action Research - Institute of Physics (UK)

Evaluation of Action Research - Edge Hill College (UK)


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