Lindsay Mainhood, M.Ed., OCT, current research assistant at Queen’s University
As a physics teacher, have you heard your students question their competence in physics? Have you heard them doubt their competence, or even express defeat in understanding physics? For reasons that may be obvious, such feelings among students can be adverse to their success and continuation in physics. Such feelings among young women can be understood as particularly detrimental on the journey toward gender equity in physics.
To explain why feeling competent is an important aspect of students’ success in physics, a research-based rationale is helpful to consider. Physics identity, a concept suggested by Hazari, Brewe, Goertzen, & Hodapp, can be described as the extent to which someone feels like they are a “physics person” (2017, p. 96). A strong physics identity is dependent on the development of four feelings (interest, competence, performance, and recognition). The importance of students’ development of physics identity is substantiated by the fact that physics identity has been shown to strongly predict students’ academic success in physics (Bliuc, Ellis, Goodyear, & Hendres, 2011) and career choice (Hazari, Sonnert, Sadler, & Shanahan, 2010). Feelings of competence, one component of physics identity, are the focus of the article. Competence can be defined as the feeling of being capable of understanding physics concepts.
In this article I share my research study’s findings related to young women’s feelings of competence during their high school physics education. This article’s aim, then, is to connect teachers to their students’ feelings of competence, or lack thereof, and to underscore the importance of helping students to feel competent for success and continuation in physics. Finally, I offer practical recommendations for teachers to help support feelings of competence in students in the physics classroom. Read More...