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What attracts students to Leaving Cert Physics? (and what drives them away?)

One very interesting question that was suggested to me for our recent survey was...

If the uptake of physics in your school is either increasing or decreasing, to what would

you attribute the change?

Among the answers of those who said that numbers were increasing were:

  • TY physics, competitions and increasing number of students in younger year groups

  • Larger student population

  • A New Building

  • Bigger emphasis on stem subjects, More interest in stem careers.

  • Consistent and likeable teacher with passion for physics

  • Students wanting to do engineering

  • Greater interest generated in TY - Physics teacher also teaching TY.

  • Sophia programme with 2nd years

  • Transition year physics module

  • Dedicated passionate approach by a physics

I fed the answers into a word-cloud site and came up with the image visible above.

The comment about how numbers are helped when a physics teacher is also teaching TY Physics, (or Junior Cycle) interested me, and chimes with my own experience. Other questions showed that in nearly 60% of schools, there is either no teacher comfortable with leaving cert physics, or only one. In those schools, you have to wonder what experience the majority of students will have of physics when it comes to Leaving Cert choices.

And that brings us to the negatives - for those who said that numbers were falling. Comments included...

  • Student Experience at Junior Cycle

  • Other sciences that are probably considered more doable, like Ag Science and also Engineering, Constuction

  • Not having positive experiences in the physical world in junior science

  • More likely to pick Biology and Chemistry and unlikely to pick three Sciences

  • Perceived as difficult.

  • Less ambitious students

  • Thought to be easier to get points in other subjects.

There seems to be a clear pattern there, though I can't say that any obvious solutions suggest themselves to me.

The associated word cloud for the negatives is here:

But despite the difficulties, it is cheering to note that 82% reported that the numbers taking in physics in their school was either stable or increasing. Which is surely encouraging.

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Hi Tom . I just looked at the physics of Spiderman . It is really excellent . Hope to use it soon with sixth years . Really makes the problems interesting . Thank you for sharing that . Mariea Murphy

Replying to

Thanks Mariea!

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