Girls and A level physics : identity and choices

THORLEY, Amelia Deborah Maud (2014). Girls and A level physics : identity and choices. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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This thesis addresses the question of how physics identity and physics self efficacy influence girls’ choices to study or not to study physics post-16. This question is important because only 20% of the overall 16-18 physics cohort in England and Wales is female. A theoretical framework for physics identity is proposed using socio-cultural theories. An extensive review of the current literature on the issue o f girls in physics, physics identity and physics self efficacy was used to support this framework. A mixed methods methodology with a funnelling approach to selecting participants was used. Two schools were selected because they had in the past demonstrated a higher than average progression rate for girls onto post-16 physics. An initial questionnaire was completed by 458 14 and 15 year old pupils. From the answers given on the questionnaire, 43 girls were selected to participate in three rounds of small group interviews. These girls were ones who were both thinking of studying physics post-16 and those who were not. Finally, extended narratives of four girls were developed to illustrate the links between physics identity, physics self efficacy and physics choice. Descriptive analysis of the questionnaire data was used to give a background picture of the pupils’ overall views about science and physics, science and physics teachers and lessons and how they felt about physics. The group interview data was analysed thematically drawing on the themes identified in the literature review and themes that emerged from the data. The stories o f four girls were analysed using narrative methodology. The results show that the issues of girls’ engagement in physics cannot be resolved unless a holistic view is taken; that developing identification with physics occurs within the wider identity development of the girls that takes place in the many figured worlds that they inhabit. Particular notice needs to be taken of how girls’ identification with physics develops due to interactions with teachers; how physics plays a part in the discourse of achievement and how society in general influences this identification. The research showed that there was little difference between future choosers and non choosers of physics.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Povey, Hilary
Thesis advisor - Boylan, Mark [0000-0002-8581-1886]
Additional Information: Thesis supervisors: Prof. Hilary Povey and Dr Mark Boylan
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Depositing User: Jill Hazard
Date Deposited: 19 Dec 2017 13:49
Last Modified: 03 May 2023 02:04

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