CCSE seminar series: Dr. Jayson M. Nissen:

The State of Equity in College Physics Student Learning in the United States: a Critical Quantitative Intersectionality Investigation

Register here for lunch  


We investigated the intersectional nature of race/racism and gender/sexism in broad scale inequities in physics student learning using a critical quantitative intersectionality framework. To provide transparency and create a nuanced picture of learning, we problematized the measurement of equity by using two competing operationalizations of equity: Equity of Individuality and Equality of Learning.

These two operationalizations led to conflicting conclusions. The analyses used hierarchical linear models to examine student’s conceptual learning as measured by gains in scores on research-based assessments administered as pretests and posttests.

The data came from the Learning About STEM Student Outcomes’ (LASSO) national database and included data from 13,857 students in 187 first-semester college physics courses. Findings showed differences in student gains across gender and race. Large gender differences existed for White and Hispanic students but not for Asian, Black, and Pacific Islander students.

The models predicted larger gains for students in collaborative learning than in lecture-based courses. The Equity of Individuality operationalization indicated that collaborative instruction improved equity because all groups learned more with collaborative learning.

The Equality of Learning operationalization indicated that collaborative instruction did not improve equity because differences between groups were unaffected. We discuss the implications of these mixed findings and identify areas for future research using critical quantitative perspectives in education research.


If you are interested in meeting with Jayson to talk one on one, you can email , and he will set up a meeting on Tuesday. 


Dr. Nissen graduated with his PhD in Physics from the University of Maine in 2016. He is an independent research scientist working with California State University – Chico to investigate the impacts of learning assistant programs on students and instructors and to develop the LASSO platform for administering research-based assessments in college science courses. His work focuses on using quantitative methods to study issues of racism and sexism in college science courses. He is a member of the Leadership Council for the Learning Assistant Alliance, first-generation college student, veteran, small-business owner, and founder of two non-profit organizations.

Published Apr. 26, 2019 3:06 PM - Last modified Mar. 4, 2020 5:47 PM