Frequently Asked Questions

What is the STEP UP curriculum?

Two 60-90 minute lessons and a guide for day-to-day actions that teachers can use to shift classroom culture. Find them in the Curriculum tab.

They were created with researchers and teachers and have been shown to facilitate female students seeing themselves as a “physics person,” and becoming interested in physics careers. A brief description of each is below:

  • Careers in Physics - a lesson on careers in physics, particularly those that help solve societal problems

  • Women in Physics - a lesson on the underrepresentation of women in physics and the role of implicit bias and cultural stereotypes.

  • Everyday Actions Guide - strategies for reducing marginalization in the classroom and recognizing students as physics people

Why do we need special lesson plans to encourage women?

The Careers in Physics lesson is meant to introduce students to the many career options available with a physics degree. The Women in Physics lesson is meant to recognize the often unknown contributions of women to the field of physics and start a productive conversation with all students about how to support more women studying physics.

How will these lessons help my students?

Students will benefit from exposure to & understanding of the contributions of traditionally marginalized groups to science. By learning about successful people with a background in physics from around the world, students will expand their ability to communicate about both scientific and cultural topics. Further, they will recognize that their ability to think globally will be valuable to future employers.

I don’t have a physics degree, am I still qualified to teach the lessons?

Yes! You can do the lessons even if you are not a subject matter expert, and in any class that you think would benefit from these discussions. All it takes to be involved is a desire to help change the culture in physics and encourage more women to become physics majors.

I am less knowledgeable about women’s issues in physics; where can I find out more?

We have monthly workshops that describe the Women in Physics lesson and issues pertaining to women in physics. Check out dates and times here.  There are references provided at the end of each lesson plan where you can learn more about the experiences about experiences of women in physics. In addition, you can check out APS Women in Physics programs and learn more about statistics of women in physics and astronomy from the APS statistics and the American Institute of Physics websites.

I am uncomfortable talking about these issues; how can I handle this?

Acknowledging this is a good start. Use the classroom discussion guidelines to help facilitate productive conversations. Having this common set of ground rules helps establish a safe environment.

How can I get more involved in the movement?

There are many ways that high school teachers or those who care about physics education can get involved and contribute to this community. We invite you to register under one of our community sections (High School Teacher, Faculty/Professor, Undergraduate Student, Other) to be kept up to date on developments, help recruit additional teachers and to connect with others in the STEP UP community [online engagement portal coming soon!]. See our Advocate, Ambassador and Student Outreach pages, or contact us to share your ideas and requests. Thanks for contributing to the positive shift of culture for women in physics!

How does this affect male students in the class?

Positively! Our research shows benefits to all students who take part in the lessons. Everyone learns more about possible careers and cultural concerns in physics, which can increase their potential future physics intentions.

I have a student expressing interest in studying physics; what else can I do to help?

Great! You can offer to write her a letter of recommendation for college, and if you know of any, you can direct her to opportunities such as local STEM or Physics clubs, or scholarships. There are more ideas in the Everyday Actions guide.

Does this program address issues of marginalized students in physics?

STEP UP was created to increase the number of women pursuing the study of physics, which includes considering their race/ethnicity. The lessons were designed to challenge unconscious bias and cultural norms to make physics a more inclusive field. The STEP UP team published findings detailing a positive gain in the future physics intentions and identity of marginalized students. Read more here.

APS has several other concurrent programs that address the issue of recruiting underrepresented minorities in physics and can provide resources to help, such as the APS National Mentoring Community and APS Bridge Program.

Does STEP UP include non-binary genders?

STEP UP supports and welcomes the inclusion of all people in physics. In our pursuit to increase the number of women in physics, we hope to enact cultural change that will make physics more welcoming for all marginalized groups, including those with non-binary genders as well as others in the LGBT+ community. If you would like to add LGBT+ profiles to the Careers in Physics lesson, a couple of resources are and

How do I justify this to parents and administrators?

Parents may be interested to learn about the variety of careers that a physics degree opens up to their child, and that physics majors score highly on the LSAT and MCAT tests. More importantly, however, is the fact that these lessons are about physics–the culture, the current issues facing the field, and generating solutions to move forward. The field of physics is not static and continues to advance because of the people, of all backgrounds, that study and teach it.

My school’s climate does not have an ethos of discussing underrepresentation. Is there support for me in discussing this?

As the educational climate is changing, you should consider your specific school community and culture. Our online discussion board is a good place to connect with other teachers from similar school settings to discuss the best course of action. These are NGSS-supported reflective activities that engage student discussion and introduce successful people with a background in physics.

If I live outside the US, can I still teach the lessons?

You are welcome to sign up to take part and gain access to the lesson plans and Everyday Actions guide. The STEP UP curriculum is available to anyone who would like to use it. We have had several educators outside of the US use the lessons and you can connect with make connections to them in our online discussion boards. The materials do focus on US physicsists statistics but can be adapted by inserting statistics that are relevant to your home country.though and other areas of concern for international physicists are not specifically addressed. The Everyday Actions Guide is still applicable to many levels and different classes throughout the world.