At The Very Root of The Development Of Interest: Using Human Body Contexts to Improve Women’s Emotional Engagement In Introductory Physics
In physics, women find contexts concerning human biology, medical applications, or natural phenomena highly relevant (Hoffmann, 2002), and the rareness or absence of these in physics curricula may make it more difficult for women to develop and maintain their interest in physics. To date, research in physics education addressing student’s interest mainly employed subjective or contextual data, mostly questionnaires containing statements about different scientific topics. However, no index has been used to identify the triggering of interest as it is happens in real time and, more importantly, in action. Psychophysiological data, in this case electrodermal activity, allow non-intrusive recordings of student’s arousal that serve as a more direct and objective way to observe their interest while they solve physics problems. The onset of interest with arousal must be investigated given that a strong, positive emotional engagement is an essential first step in developing interest in a discipline (Hidi & Renninger, 2006). This study compares the emotional engagement of 13 female college and university students while solving physics problems involving either technical or human body contexts. Results show that the emotional engagement of women in the subject was, in part, significantly greater and more positive when they were solving problems involving the human body context rather than the technical context.
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