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GENDER DIFFERENCES IN ENGINEERING STUDENTS’ BELIEFS ABOUT PHYSICS AND PHYSICS LEARNING AT A SOUTH AFRICAN UNIVERSITY

L. Reddy

University of Johannesburg (SOUTH AFRICA)
Gender plays a significant role in students’ beliefs about physics and physics learning. It is important therefore to study if gender plays a role in such beliefs amongst engineering students, where physics forms a backbone of their studies. In this study, use is made of the Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey (CLASS) to study such beliefs among South African students. This survey consists of 42 questions for which students had to rate their levels of agreement or disagreement to the items on the survey on a Likert-type of scale of evaluation. The survey has been administered to 27 males and 27 female students at the beginning and at the end of the semester to gauge if there are shifts in their epistemological beliefs about physics between the genders. Results are presented in the form of mean values. From this study, results reveal that of all the items in the survey, males displayed a positive shift in items relating to four categories of beliefs as identified by Adam et al. (2006), namely, Real World Connections, Personal Interest, Sense Making and Applied Conceptual Understanding. On the other hand, females have displayed a positive shift in fewer of the categories of beliefs, namely, Conceptual Connections, Applied Conceptual Understanding and Problem Solving Sophistication. Overall, the research reveals that males display a more expert-like approach to problem solving in comparison to woman who display a more novice-like approach to problem solving in physics and physics learning.