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Student views of what counts as doing physics in the lab

Cornell Affiliated Author(s)


E.M. Stump
N.G. Holmes


Numerous studies have identified gender inequity in how students divide roles in lab courses. Few studies, however, have probed how these inequities impact women’s experimental physics identity development. In this work, we used closed-response surveys to investigate which lab tasks students view as part of “doing physics” and how these designations varied by gender. In both courses, we found that most students viewed working with the experimental apparatus, taking lab notes, doing data analysis, and thinking about the physics theory behind the experiment as part of doing physics. Only 50% of students, however, viewed managing the group progress as part of doing physics. While men and women’s views did not vary in the first-semester lab course, in the third-semester course women were more likely to view notes and managing as part of doing physics than were men. Given that previous research has indicated that women are more likely to take on managing and note-taking roles than men, our results suggest that women may be receiving less recognition as physicists from their peers, which may hinder their experimental physics identity development. © 2022, American Association of Physics Teachers. All rights reserved.

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Natasha Holmes Group

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