Ghada Nehmeh and Angela Kelly will present two papers at the upcoming European Science Education Research Association (ESERA) Conference in Dublin, Ireland, August, 2017

Primary and University Academic Experiences of Career Women Physicists

Participation in physics has been persistently inequitable for traditionally underrepresented groups such as women and ethnic minorities. A diverse workforce in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is desirable for economic innovation and global competitiveness. Women constitute half the workforce in the U.S. yet they are a considerably untapped talent resource in physics related careers, earning fewer than 20% of physics bachelor’s degrees and 18% of doctoral degrees in the U.S. in 2015. Solutions are needed to prepare, recruit, and retain more women to contribute to a vibrant, inclusive physics community. This qualitative case study explored the academic pathways of eight women physicists through a sociocognitive theoretical lens. The phenomenological approach, intended to illuminate shared lived experiences, was employed. Elements of grounded theory were applied and hypotheses were generated from the raw data. The constructs identified were shared by a majority of participants, yet none was uniformly reported. The women spoke of beneficial experiences with mentors, their persistent lack of self-efficacy, and differential treatment.Future studies and reform efforts may build upon this work to identify essential supports and cultural realignments in the physics community that may attract more women to physics study and careers. 

Physics Teacher Isolation in Urban Schools

High school physics teachers in the U.S. are often in a position of isolation within their schools. This is particularly true for physics teachers in urban schools, where physics access and participation are limited. Many urban schools have few sections of physics classes if physics is offered at all, so one physics teacher is typical. This may present challenges for reflection and professional growth. If a physics teacher is a sole practitioner within her school, she may have limited opportunities for meaningful disciplinary collaboration and pedagogical development. It may be difficult to establish a sustained, reliable network of peers experiencing similar challenges. This qualitative study explored the question of professional isolation and how it impacted six novice physics teachers during their induction years in urban schools. Data were collected over four years through a series of interviews and focus groups. Teachers reported pervasive feelings of isolation, minimal success, limited professional agency, and a desire for pedagogical collaboration. They also reported lack of administrative support for physics due the standardized testing culture and a lack of meaningful observation feedback and mentoring. They often formed their own networks for collegial planning and sometimes sought new schools for improved conditions. Physics teachers need to be involved with local professional communities where they might find support. Implications for policy and practice are discussed.