The Impact of Two Interventions on the Physics Identities and Figured Worlds of High School Physics Students

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Physics and Astronomy

Date of Award

Fall 2021


Over the years, women have been increasingly earning bachelor’s degrees to the point that around 55% of bachelor’s degrees in all fields are awarded to women. However, in certain STEM fields like physics and engineering, the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded to women sharply drops to around 20%, without ever breaching 25% in the past thirty-five years. Due to the consistent underrepresentation of women in physics-related fields, the STEP UP project seeks to reverse this course through the use of research-based interventions in high school.This project uses the data from a study conducted in Fall 2018 where high school physics teachers were given two interventions for use in the classroom: Careers in Physics and Women in Physics, which involve activities designed to educate students on the topics in question. After the interventions, the teachers send the materials back to the STEP UP program, including surveys and essays completed by the students. We sought to use the survey and essay results from both interventions to perform analysis, looking for the answers to the following questions: how the Women in Physics lesson affects figured worlds, how specific career interests affect physics identities, and if prior career interests predict identity shifts. The analysis utilized descriptive statistics, regressions, and constant comparison for that purpose. With the answers to these questions, we looked to understand what makes the interventions effective, who is more impacted, and where improvements can be made in order to assist in the goal of increasing the representation of women in physics. The study determined the interventions are effective at both shifting figured worlds and increasing physics identity. In particular, the Women in Physics intervention is more effective for women than men, while there is no statistically significant difference between genders for physics identity, but the medical career was determined to have a positive correlation with greater identity shift. Overall, some improvements can be made to the surveys and retrieval of materials in order to increase sample size to make the study more representative of the student population.


Robynne Lock

Subject Categories

Physical Sciences and Mathematics | Physics