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Durham University

Research & business

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Girls Into Physics: Parent And Carer Project (Phase I)

A research project of the School of Education.

Background

The Department for Education (DfE) has funded the “Improving Gender Balance” (IBG) project which aims to improve the rates of girls choosing physics as a subject at A-level. The Institute of Physics are the developers in the project and will deliver a suite of interventions to students in Years 9 -11 in the intervention schools and work with support staff in these schools. Samuel Sims from the Institute of Education (IoE) will be leading the external evaluation of the IGB project using A-level physics uptake as the primary outcome. The project design is a pre-post-test randomised control trial. 

The project described here is the “Parent and Carer Project” and is linked to the IGB project. It is the first phase of the parent and carer project and involves developing and offering a pre-test survey to all the students in Y9 of the IGB study and a separate survey to the parents and carers of these Y9 students, with the addition of interventions delivered by the IoP aimed at the parents and carers. The project has the same overarching aim of improving the rates of girls choosing physics as a subject at A-level in mind, but the focus is primarily on understanding any attitudes and stereotypes held by the parents and carers of the students. (We describe these aims in more detail in the next section). The sample will be the same Y9 students in the IGB survey plus their parents/carers. Those in the control group will not receive any interventions but will still be offered the pre-test surveys. The survey will be aimed at measuring student and parents attitudes and stereotypes in relation to STEM/physics subjects and careers. 

This project initially has funding for Phase 1 (the Year 9 pre-test). The IoP intends to seek further funding for Phase 2 in order to deliver the post-test to enable us to evaluate the impact of the parent interventions. The student pre and post-test data may also contribute to the external evaluation of the primary outcomes (ie the uptake of A-level physics by girls) by providing evidence on mediator effects (ie evidence of variables that explain the relationship between the IoP’s interventions and any change in A-level uptake). For example, this could be changes in stereotypical attitudes towards women in physics, as measured by the pre and post-test surveys). 

Many projects in the literature focus on interventions aimed at students, but few exist focussing on measuring the impact of interventions aimed at parents/carers. This study will be innovative as it is aimed at parents and carers. If funding for phase 2 is secured, the student pre and post-test data may also contribute to the external evaluation of the primary outcomes for the IGB project (ie the uptake of A-level physics by girls) by providing evidence on mediator effects (ie evidence of variables that explain the relationship between the IoP’s interventions and any change in A-level uptake). For example, changes in stereotypical attitudes towards women in physics, as measured by the pre and post-test surveys).

Further information about research projects is available on the Institute of Physics website

Funding

The project is funded by the following grant.

  • Girls Into Physics: Parent And Carer Project (phase I) (£11600.00 from Institute of Physics)

Aims

  1. To move gender and physics research forward by understanding the link between parents and carers attitudes and students’ (in particular girls’) decisions to take A-level physics.
  2. To collect pre-test data on student mediator effects that may inform the “Improving Gender Balance” evaluation.

 Sub-aims:

  • To investigate what jobs parents/carers want for their children and where physics-related jobs sit within that.
  • To understand the value parents/carers place on physics as a subject in comparison to other subjects and how that might be changed
  • To determine how confident parents/carers feel in supporting their child with career and subject guidance
  • To know if unconscious gendered labels are being placed on children by their parents/carers
  • To understand how all of the above vary according to time, intervention, gender of parent/child, school, geographic location etc.

Methods

105 schools have been randomised, with 51 in the control and 54 in the intervention group. The study will involve the Year 9 cohorts in these schools and their parents/carers. Surveys will be developed for both the parents and carers and the Y9 students and delivered to all 105 schools in the project by January 2020. The surveys aim to measure concepts such as career interests, attitudes towards physics, physics self-concept and gender stereotypes.

Staff

From the School of Education

Further information

For further information, please contact Karen Jones.