Supporting young women's physics engagement : Evidence from an intervention in the context of the Physics Olympiad

This dissertation sought to implement an intervention that was meant to support high-achieving young women’s physics engagement. The studies were implemented in the context of the PhysicsOlympiad in order to tap amongst the highest-achieving female physics students and probe effects of specifically designed learning environments. Four empirical studies revealed that even high-achieving young women at times face barriers in their physics engagement that eventually result from constraining expectations by their peer-groups or gender stereotypes. However, the intervention studies also showed that it was possible to support the physics engagement of the high-achieving young women. For example, important resources for physics engagement, such as competence beliefs, could be positively affected for young women while not depressing young men’s physics engagement at the same time. Furthermore, the long-term development of resources was also positively affected through the intervention. Namely, students who experienced a high environmental fit with the intervention environment developed a more positive sense of belonging compared to students who reported a lower environmental fit. In summary, these findings buttress the assumption that considerately designed learning environments that incorporate the motivations, goals, and values of high-achieving young women are potentially effective in order to challenge the overproportional dropout of high-achieving young women from physics learning environments.


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