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Gender and education.

Issues related to gender continue to be a major challenge for educators in the 21st century. The problems connected to gender cut across a wide range of topics, from the salience of single-sex classrooms or schools to gender inequity related to remuneration in higher education. The following articles represent a wide range of educational challenges about gender and were jointly reviewed by me and my colleagues, Maxie Kohler and Lois M. Christensen.--JA

18 WAYS FOR FACULTY TO PROMOTE EQUITY IN THE CLASSROOM. Lufkin, M., Techniques, 2009, 84(3), 24-26. According to Mimi Lufkin, teachers can attend to multiple details that encourage gender equity in education. In this article, Lufkin, who is CEO of the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity, focuses on 18 practical and specific recommendations that were designed to help teachers examine their biases and make changes. Several of her suggestions are thought-provoking. For example, Lufkin's notions concerning the grouping of males and females go against the recent trend of having same-sex classrooms or single-sex schools. She suggests, "Do not group students by gender, since such groupings often imply that females are not as qualified as males. Do not group people by gender in order to have each gender compete with the other" (p. 25). She even goes as far as to say that "in most instances, grouping students by gender violates Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in education" (p. 26).

Lufkin also cautions teachers to make sure they give credit or praise to the right students. "Often, males get more credit for their contributions, and sometimes they even get credit for something a female said" (p. 26). To help avoid this pitfall, she calls students by name. The specific points that she crafts in this article can be used when gender equity is the focus of professional development. Educators would find the 18 recommendations useful for a "real world" discussion about gender.

TEACHERS' AND CAREGIVERS' PERCEPTIONS OF GENDER DIFFERENCES IN EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCES OF CHILDREN AFFECTED BY PARENTAL AIDS IN WESTERN KENYA. Jepkemboi, G., & Aldridge, J., Educational Research and Review, 4(5), 285-288. According to Jepkemboi and Aldridge, "The purpose of this qualitative case study was to describe the perceptions of teachers and caregivers concerning gender differences in the educational experiences of children influenced by the HIV status of their parents or orphaned by AIDS in 7 orphanage schools of Western Kenya" (p. 285). Numerous children in Kenya are now being educated in orphanages due to the death of their parents from AIDS. Perceptions of gender differences by teachers and caregivers were found in some areas, but not in others.

"No gender differences regarding academic performance were expressed concerning children at the preschool level .... Teachers, however, reported gender differences for children at the elementary level" (p. 286). Specifically, it appears that girls do better academically than boys in grades 2 through 5. This trend changes, however, when students reach grades 6 through 8, when boys tend to do better in school, particularly in the areas of science and math. One teacher remarked that this may be due to regional cultural beliefs. Another teacher suggested that "girls did not perform well in math and the sciences because they lacked appropriate role models in these areas" (p. 287). Gender differences also were reported with regard to school attendance. "Participants reported that they saw many children drop out of school when the parents reached the final stages of AIDS. Some children, especially the girls, dropped out to help the sick parent and prepare meals for the siblings" (p. 287).

Although more research needs to be done in this area, this study provides preliminary data that could address teachers' perceptions of gender differences. Perhaps the most useful part of the article was the focus on teachers' efforts to address gender differences. One teacher said, "I had three girls who were not doing as well as the boys in math .... I was able to encourage them by giving some examples of prominent women who are in leadership .... Eventually they realized that women could perform equally well as the men in science and math" (p. 287).

TEACHING FOR GENDER JUSTICE. Keddie, A., & Mills, M., Australian Journal of Education, 2009, 51(2), 205-219. Since the early 1990s, the Australian government has funded large amounts of money to investigate issues related to males and equity in the classroom. This article is based on a qualitative study of two teachers who examined the effective teaching of boys in their classrooms.

Keddie and Mills did a thorough job of examining the related literature and controversies in gender education before they discussed their own research. For example, they spotlighted how much of the literature does not acknowledge power relations and privilege concerning males when addressing gender issues. Thus, the authors situated their studies within a social justice framework. They reference an Australian report titled, "Addressing the Educational Needs of Boys" (Lingard, Martino, Mills, & Bahr, 2002), which promotes alternative understandings about "issues of boys and schooling to those currently dominating the boys' agenda in many countries" (p. 210).

The majority of the article examines how two teachers wrestle with gender issues. Keddie and Mills conclude that a transformative approach is necessary to better address the gender issues of both boys and girls. An affirmative approach is not enough. Very few articles consider equity issues, particularly as they relate to males, through a transformative approach. This article, then, is a boon for any educator seeking to look at gender and social justice through a transformational lens.

LEARNING SEPARATELY: The Case for Single-Sex Schools. Meyer, E, Education Next, 2008, 8(1), 10-11,13, 15,17,19-21. Peter Meyer does his best to make a strong case for single-sex classrooms and schools. He begins by describing the history of same-sex education during the past 20 years. According to Meyer, many of the problems with establishing single-sex education resulted from threats of legal action related to Title IX. According to Meyer, however, things have changed for the better. For example, Jim Rex (South Carolina's Superintendent of Education) says there is now enough research that shows single-sex classrooms are beneficial, especially during middle school. Rex's campaign for superintendent was based "on a platform that included making single-gender schools an option in every school district in the state" (p. 19).

While the author's political stance may be conservative, he cleverly uses political examples from the left to support his point. Specifically, Meyer believes that Hillary Clinton and Dianne Feinstein are examples of the success of single-sex schools. Meyer concludes, "The dire predictions about the resegregation of public schools and turning back the clock on civil rights gains for women [have] never materialized. It is a new world, especially for women, and serious educators seem to realize that single-sex schools and classrooms are not a threat, but another arrow in the quiver of education quality" (p. 21).

Meyer's article would make a great complement to Lufkin's article, reviewed earlier in this column. It appears that the debate with single-sex classrooms and schools is far from over; consequently, teachers and administrators should consider multiple viewpoints when debating this issue.

BOYS AND GIRLS TOGETHER: A Case for Creating Gender-Friendly Middle School Classrooms. Kommer, D., The Clearing House, 2006, 79(6), 247-251. Learning styles are the focus of this interesting article. David Kommer finds that "awareness of differences between the learning modalities of male and female students can help to create more gender-friendly classrooms and make students more academically successful" (p. 247). Kommer's discussion centers mostly on middle school. He asks two salient questions about gender differences in the middle grades: "Are boys and girls treated differently from one another?" and "Should boys and girls be treated differently?" (p. 248).

Kommer considers the differences between boys and girls, dividing the differences into brain differences and social differences. He goes as far as to say that "boys and girls have slightly different brain chemistry, which may cause each to think differently" (p. 249). Kommer makes numerous sweeping generalizations about the differences between males and females, including differences in sensory processing, hormones, engagement in risky behaviors, spatial tasks, math abilities, and even the ability to read maps and graphs. Kommer attributes social differences more to nurture than nature. He also presents alengthy discussion of boys' and girls' differences in socialization processes. We, the reviewers, found this section to be more realistic and less sensational than the earlier section on brain differences.

Kommer's conclusion is titled "Making Classrooms Appropriate for Both Genders." Some of his recommendations are rather general, such as "create a gender friendly classroom" (p. 250). Other recommendations are more controversial, such as his suggestion that teachers "learn about differences in gender" (p. 251). The problem with this last recommendation is that Kommer emphasizes inter-individual gender differences and does little to examine intra-individual gender disparities. Still this article would be a great place to start for educators who are interested in debating what actually constitutes gender differences in the classroom.

WHERE THE GIRLS AREN'T. Sax, L., Education Week, 2008, 27(42), 36, 29. Leonard Sax begins this article with some interesting and controversial facts, stating, for example, that the academic achievement gap between males and females is actually quite small. However, the percentage of women who study computer science or physics has dropped dramatically. Sax proposes single-sex classes for girls as a solution. He reports, "I serve as the executive director of the National Association for Single Sex Public Education, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to spread the good news that single-sex classrooms can advantage girls without disadvantaging boys, and vice versa" (p. 29). Readers of this piece will quickly pick up on Sax's bias.

Sax is highly critical of the American Association of University Women because they discourage single-sex classrooms. He accuses the association of political bias and believes the AAUW is partially responsible for the decreasing number of women in physics, computer science, and engineering. According to Sax, "The one intervention proven to increase the numbers of women entering highly paid fields such as engineering--namely, single-sex classes--is scorned by the AAUW on political grounds" (p. 29).

Another controversial section of this article has to do with differences in pay between men and women. Sax implies that some of this disparity is due to the fact that "young women continue to choose professions that pay less well than those chosen by men with similar education" (p. 36). He follows up by stating that "women remain more likely than men to major in art history and journalism; men are more likely than women to major in computer science, physics and engineering" (pp. 36 & 29).

This article is essentially an editorial and should be viewed as such. It would be interesting to see the AAUW's reaction to Sax's article. At any rate, this piece would be interesting reading for those debating the pros and cons of single-sex classrooms.

GENDER SENSITIVE TEACHING: A Reflective Approach for Early Childhood Education Teacher Training Programs. Zaman, A., Education, 2008, 129(1), 110-118. Ahmed Zaman "proposes the infusion of [a] nonsexist approach through a Reflective Based Observation (RBO) scheme to be incorporated in an observation course" (p. 110). He further believes that non-sexist early childhood education is not being infused into pedagogy courses in either the elementary or the early childhood teacher education curriculum. In this article, Zaman shares an "attitude about teaching" scale that purportedly determines positive, neutral, and negative attitudes toward boys.

Items on Zaman's instrument include such statements as "I believe boys are uncontrollable in the classroom" and "I believe it is more challenging to teach boys" (p. 112). Students use a Likert scale to respond to each item. Our question for Zaman is, "Why did you not include items that would address positive, neutral and negative attitudes toward girls?" Sadker and Sadker (1994) found that teachers also have negative attitudes and practices toward females. Gender-sensitive teaching must consider biases against girls as well as boys if it is to be truly "sensitive."

WHERE ARE THE WOMEN? Integrating Female Voices Into the Historical and Psychological Foundations of Education. Al-dridge, J., Christensen, L., Cowles, M., & Kohler, M., Southeastern Teacher Education Journal, 2009, 2(3), 139-146. According to the authors, women have been consistently marginalized from the historical and psychological foundations of education literature. This piece is divided into four sections: 1) why women have been marginalized, 2) examples of women from the historical foundations who have been excluded, 3) examples of females from the psychological foundations who are rarely mentioned, and 4) finding out what we can do about it.

Ella Flagg Young, Lucy Sprague Mitchell, and Marietta Johnson are cited as examples of marginalized women from the historical foundations. The article implies that much of the work attributed to John Dewey should actually be attributed to these progressive women educators and to other women, such as Margaret Naumburg, Jane Addams, Caroline Pratt, Helen Parkhurst, Flora Cooke, and Laura Bragg. Specifically, while Dewey may have formulated much of the philosophy behind progressive education, these women were the ones who put it into practice. Much of the practical work that progressive women initiated is still in operation today. For example, the Bank Street School for Children and College of Education were started by Lucy Sprague Mitchell. Caroline Pratt began the City and Country School, which is still actively pursuing a progressive pedagogy.

Sabina Speilrein and Carol Gilligan are examples used from the psychological foundations. Speilrein worked withJung, Freud, Piaget, and Vygotsky, but not one of them gave her credit for her work. Kohlberg was the focus of moral development in the psychological foundations for many years. However, his original research was completed on a "male only" population, and so Carol Gilligan's theory of female moral development should be used to complement Kohlberg's theory.

While this article points out the exclusion of prominent women educators from both the historical and psychological foundations, the women exemplars used in this article were white. We believe the article would have more credibility if it had also included women leaders of color, such as Mary Church Terrell or Charlotte Hawkins Brown, who have also been excluded from foundations of education literature.


Sadker, M., & Sadker, D. (1994). Failing at fairness: How schools cheat girls. New York: Touchstone.
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Title Annotation:among the periodicals
Author:Aldridge, Jerry; Kohler, Maxie; Christensen, Lois M.
Publication:Childhood Education
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2009
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