Towards equity in high school physics education: A literature review

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Mainhood, Lindsay
Equity , Physics , Women , Physics Education , Women in Physics
This literature review explores the issue of underrepresentation of women in physics by framing the topic as a journey towards equity, with many barriers along the way and which persists, yet at a slow pace. The journey perspective accounts for the long history of the issue and includes various understandings of and approaches to the issue. This review begins by introducing the status of underrepresentation of women in physics education in Canada, which is indicative of the low numbers of women in the field. In recognizing the complex dynamics of the problem of underrepresentation of women in physics, the review asks about the nature of the problem: What is the relationship between gender and science? Is equity in physics education and the field at large important? Based on the review of existing literature on the underrepresentation of women in physics, this literature review presents three arguments. The first argument is that the low number of women in physics is best explained by low participation from young women at the high school level of education. The second argument is that barriers to young women’s election and continuation of physics study exist within physics education at the high school level. The third argument is that there is a need for research that aims to understand young women’s experiences of barriers in physics education during high school in order to move forward on the journey toward gender equity in physics education and the field.
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