The Effect of Classroom Diversity on Conceptual Learning in Physics Documents

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The Effect of Classroom Diversity on Conceptual Learning in Physics 

written by Tetyana Antimirova, Andie Noack, and Marina Milner-Bolotin

Hundreds of students are required to take introductory physics each year at our mid-size Canadian university. These students enter the course with diverse educational histories and demographic characteristics that reflect the diversity of the large, metropolitan city that the university is located in. In this project, we investigate how students' demographic and educational diversity is related to their conceptual learning in introductory university physics. Students' learning outcomes in introductory sciences courses often impact their later learning in undergraduate science degree programs. As expected, we found that the completion of a senior high school physics course is positively related to students' conceptual understanding of physics. The unexpected result was that gender remained a predictor of the students' conceptual understanding, even when the completion of high school physics was accounted for. Interestingly, other demographic characteristics, such as students' mother tongue and country of birth, seem not to matter. The results suggest that the impact of completing high school physics may extend far beyond the first year and that the gender gap continues to persist in SMET disciplines.

Published November 11, 2009
Last Modified October 2, 2009

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