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Gender Differences in completion and credit obtained in Level 2 study in Physical Sciences

Project leader(s): 
Pam Budd

At the UK Open University Athena SWAN/Juno projects involving analysis of historic examination data for the Level 2 (FHEQ Level 5) physics module S207 The Physical World raised concerns about the success of women studying S207 compared to men. For presentations of S207 in the period 2009 – 2013 this analysis suggested that there may have been significant statistical differences between men and women for both completion and credit. A new L2 module S217 Physics: from classical to quantum was in production to replace S207 in 2015 and these investigations would be able to inform S217 in relation to tuition and assessment strategies

This project involved further data analysis in relation to various aspects of the assessment in S207 - both continuous assessment and various exam components. Data from other modules in related areas was also examined. Results suggested that the difference in success between the genders in S207 could be not explained by the assessment strategy or by other factors (e.g. online forum activity, gender of tutor) (Jordan et al, (2015)). Demographic information gave no obvious differences for women and men e.g. age, previous qualifications etc but for Open University student previous study is very varied and individual student information known is very limited. To determine further information in this area some students on the 2016 presentation of S217 were surveyed and a cohort of these students interviewed by phone. These telephone interviews allowed more detailed discussions of students' reasons for studying S217 as well as their preparedness for the module particularly in terms of any previous study of physics and/or mathematics.

Common themes were identified and allowed recommendations for additional resources to be made to the module team. Further academic outputs are also detailed, which have included publications and conference presentations.

Related resources

Budd, P., Gorfinkiel, J., Hedgeland, H., Jordan, S. and Pearson, V. (2018)  Gender Differences in completion and credit obtained in Level 2 study in Physical Sciences. eSTEeM Final Report (PDF)

Report prepared by Dr Nicky Wright giving a statistical analysis of S217 student survey data (PDF)

Summary of main points from telephone interviews with S217 students on the 2015J presentation (PDF)

Summary of student comments relating to preparation for S217 (PDF)

Dawkins, H., Hedgeland, H., Budd, P., Gorfinkiel, J., Pearson, V. and Jordan, S. (2017) The impact of scaffolding on learning physics: is there a gender difference? Best poster winner at the 6th eSTEeM Annual Conference, 25-26 April 2017 (PDF)