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Guidelines for Designing Inclusive Physics Problems

1.         Be aware of diversity—not all women are white middle-class Americans.  Write problems to appeal to a variety of racial, class, and ethnic backgrounds. 

2.         Use well-known people in examples in ways that challenge stereotypes.  Try especially to include women and minority scientists.

3.         Emphasize the social benefits of physics.  Deemphasize military or other destructive examples.

4.         Include examples relevant to the lives of urban and working class students.  For example, use buses and bicycles as examples, not always cars and airplanes.

5.         Mix up persons (“you,” “she,” “a golfer”) and gender in problems.  Try to choose genders in ways that challenge stereotypes (an African-American woman astronaut, a male dancer).

6.         Use examples from contemporary everyday life.  Choose a variety of urban, rural, and suburban settings.  Make an effort to include non-American settings.

7.         When using sports examples, emphasize sports played by women, such as soccer, basketball, and tennis.

8.         Use animals as examples.  Most people have experience of and fondness for animals.

9.         Use examples from space—it is one of the aspects of physics best known to lay people.

10.       Use pictures or drawings with each problem to emphasize the context. Check to use numbers that are realistic.

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Posted on 8/1/05

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