This fall, my DUML physics class was comprised of ten (10) students, and for the first time since I have been here, they were all female. I have to say that it was both encouraging, because women are typically under-represented in the physical sciences, and different, because their experience and interaction with physics was not what I would consider typical. I note that the DUML course and student population is not necessarily typical for introductory physics anyway, since we generally get biology majors in a Premed track, who are interested in marine science or policy. There was still something which “felt” a little different this semester.
So what was unique about this group besides their gender?
Music tended to be “girl” music, they teased (although with some valid points) about the “sexist” text book, they did not interact with me or open up as much as gender mixed groups do, they really seemed to enjoy the labs — especially when allowed to participate in the design of the experiment, …
Just the final exam remains at this moment in time, and as the TA, I do not submit final grades or grade the final, so I feel free to comment further certainly concerning a little self-analysis/observation. I found it difficult to hold this class individually accountable for participation during recitation sessions and I don’t think I held standards as high — e.g. demanding that everyone get to the board to explain how they approached the assigned problems. I need to think this through more fully — but I believe that I altered my expectations subconsciously and will need to take more care in the future to act in ways that demand the same rigor from all students. I also need to find better ways to get students to “open up” and to find “hooks” which generate interest across the entire student population. Education is an art.