Encouraging students’ identity as “science people”: a little recognition goes a long way

In this video, I describe “physics identity” and what I do to support positive physics identity development for my students. A quick way to describe physics identity is that it’s how much someone feels like a “physics person.” The same idea applies for math identity and science identity. Researchers have found that physics identity is a good predictor of whether students plan to stay in physics, and also that the most important factor for physics identity is whether students feel recognized as physics people by their peers, families, and mentors. In my own research, I have found that the collaborative learning environment we have set up in the physics department at Texas State helps students feel recognized and develop stronger physics identities. We have a Physics Learning Assistant program that gives undergraduate students the opportunity to assist with small-group activities in introductory courses; this puts students in an expert-like role, with support in reviewing the class activities they are assisting with, and helps them explore a wide variety of ways of being good at physics and contributing to the understanding of the small group. All of these features help the students receive recognition from faculty as well as from fellow students. Helping students develop positive identities in math and science can be done at many levels – watch the video for some examples in physics!


Eleanor Close
Assistant Professor – Physics Department
Texas State University