A Teachers’ Guide for Action

This guide draws on the work done by Ponchaud, and by Murphy and Whitelegg, to identify some of the strategies that schools could use to try to increase the participation of girls in post-16 physics:

  • Section 1 is written by Ponchaud. It explores the lessons that he learned from schools that are successfully recruiting girls to AS physics, retaining them into A2 and gaining good examination results. It also suggests how this good practice can be developed in other schools.
  • Section 2 is written by Murphy and Whitelegg. It summarises the research findings and suggests practical ways that you can examine these issues in the context of your school, department or classroom.
  • Section 3 is written by Martin Hollins. It is based on two videos: Saving Nellie and Key Stage 3/4 Science: Girls in Physics. It suggests how the videos might be used to stimulate discussion among teachers about their own practices and encourage school departments to review their teaching and learning strategies.
Report cover

The intention of this guide is to inform teachers about how girls experience physics and what influences their motivation for, and learning of, the subject. The practical advice is grounded in work carried out in classrooms and the methods suggested have been used successfully by other teachers and their students. The aim is to promote informed debate about this important issue.

The work of Ponchaud, Murphy and Whitelegg explored the problem from two different perspectives but they reached a similar conclusion: the issue is not insoluble and teachers have a key role to play. In particular, girls are more likely to continue with physics after the age of 16 if:

  • Physics is taught in a way that engages with the interests of young people
  • There is an expectation that anyone can do physics
  • Classrooms are managed to ensure active participation by students
  • The focus of learning is ideas rather than unconnected facts
  • Students feel supported in their learning
  • Young people understand the contribution that physics makes to society and can make to their lives

Many of the changes suggested in this report simply represent good classroom practice and are likely to support both boys and girls in their learning.

Girls in the Physics Classroom: A Teachers’ Guide for Action (PDF, 573 KB)

Questionnaires: (Word, 218 KB)

  • Student interests in science
  • Pupils’ perceptions of physics teachers
  • Teachers’ perspectives of girls’ and boys’ behaviour in physics