Do Gender Differentials Play Any Role in University Physics Students’ Performance?

By Fhatuwani J. Mundalamo and Fulufhelo Godfrey Netswera.

Published by The International Journal of Learner Diversity and Identities

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Abstract: Against international literature that indicates that gender differences exist in the performance in introductory physics level students, this paper has examined the prospects of gender based differences in students’ performance in introductory physics at the university level in South Africa. The study was conducted at four South African universities using a sample of 194 students. A third (68) of the participants in this research were female students. Student performance was measured through two instruments, namely 1) The Force and Motion Conceptual Evaluation (FMCE) tests adapted from Thornton and Sokoloff (1998) and 2) the student’s introductory physics mechanics marks. Both FMCE and mechanics courses lay the foundation for other physics courses. Student performances on the two instruments were analysed. The students’ outcomes on these tests suggest that in the South African context, gender differentials do not necessarily predict performance in physics. In conclusion, this paper discusses other factors which in the context of South Africa need attention as possible barriers to general outcomes in physics.

Keywords: Gender, Physics, Performance, University

The International Journal of Learner Diversity and Identities, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp.59-67. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 351.821KB).

Prof. Fhatuwani J. Mundalamo

Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, Faculty of Humanities, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa

I have researched learning processes of students in university level introductory physics courses. Presently, I teach physics to undergraduate student-teachers, and to honours students who are qualified teachers studying part-time. I am involved in the assessment of teaching practicum. I have also taught curriculum studies to science student-teachers. I supervise Master’s and Ph.D. students in science education. My interests include researching pedagogical content knowledge of qualified teachers, and the development of student-teachers through teaching practicum.

Fulufhelo Godfrey Netswera

Director, Turfloop Graduate School of Leadership, University of Limpopo, Polokwane, Limpopo, South Africa

I am involved in research relating to higher education, policy and human capital development.