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ERIC Number: EJ1110009
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2016
Pages: 16
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: EISSN-2469-9896
Differences in Gender Performance on Competitive Physics Selection Tests
Wilson, Kate; Low, David; Verdon, Matthew; Verdon, Alix
Physical Review Physics Education Research, v12 n2 p020111-1-020111-16 Jul-Dec 2016
We have investigated gender differences in performance over the past eight years on the Australian Science Olympiad Exam (ASOE) for physics,which is taken by nearly 1000 high school students each year. The ASOE, run by Australian Science Innovations (ASI), is the initial stage of the process of selection of teams to represent Australia at the Asian and International Physics Olympiads. Students taking the exam are generally in their penultimate year of school and selected by teachers as being high performing in physics. Together with the overall differences in facility,we have investigated how the content and presentation of multiple-choice questions (MCQs) affects the particular answers selected by male and female students. Differences in the patterns of responses by male and female students indicate that males and females might be modeling situations in different ways. Some strong patterns were found in the gender gaps when the questions were categorized in five broad dimensions: content, process required, difficulty, presentation, and context. Almost all questions saw male students performing better, although gender differences were relatively small for questions with a more abstract context. Male students performed significantly better on most questions with a concrete context, although notable exceptions were found, including two such questions where female students performed better. Other categories that showed consistently large gaps favoring male students include questions with projectile motion and other two-dimensional motion or forces content, and processes involving interpreting diagrams. Our results have important implications, suggesting that we should be able to reduce the gender gaps in performance on MCQ tests by changing the way information is presented and setting questions in contexts that are less likely to favor males over females. This is important as MCQ tests are frequently used as diagnostic tests and aptitude tests as well as to assess learning. [This paper is part of the Focused Collection on Gender in Physics.]
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Australia
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A