Forget gender: whether a teacher is male or female doesn’t matter

Carrington, B., Tymms, P. and Merrell, C. (2005) Forget gender: whether a teacher is male or female doesn’t matter. Teacher (Australian Council for Educational Research), pp. 32-34.

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Boys need male teachers, girls need female teachers, but is this really the case? The authors checked out the gender role-model hypothesis by looking at the interaction effects between the gender of the teacher and the gender of the student - and found that gender makes little difference. Educational policy makers around the world have been concerned about the under-representation of men in teaching, especially in primary schools, responding in part to a - so far - unsubstantiated view that the relative dearth of male teachers is somehow linked with boys' underachievement and disaffection. It is thought by some that the 'gender gap' in the school performance of boys and girls is the result of the 'feminisation' of the teaching profession and the lack of role models for boys. Although men are generally under-represented in primary schools, they are more likely to be found working with older children - in upper primary. It may well be that gender stereotyping deters men from taking up teaching positions in the lower primary area. Whereas working in the upper-primary sector may be more readily reconciled with dominant notions of masculinity, teaching younger children tends to be associated with nurturing and construed in popular consciousness as a 'woman's job'. Thus, men taking up teaching posts in the lower primary sector, particularly in the early ears, are seen, at best, as 'unusual' or 'odd' and, at worst, as potential threats to the children. Matching teachers and students by gender appears to have no significant impact on educational outcomes in Year Six but it ought not to be assumed that the teacher's gender will therefore be similarly inconsequential with younger children. It is conceivable that male teachers could have greater impact as role models for boys in the lower primary years, where men are generally conspicuous by their absence. No data about the gender of previous teachers and the length of time spent with those teachers were available for the sample of students analysed for this project. The data were collected at roughly the midpoint in the academic year - January 1998 - so students had been with their teacher for just over four months. It is possible that the outcomes of the research may have been different if the data collection had taken place later in the year. There are a host of other factors that could have influenced the outcomes, such as the personality and the effectiveness of the teacher. This type of analysis will always be open to such limitations and in an ideal world the random assignment of teachers to classes would be employed to investigate the issue more rigorously. Such limitations aside, how are current teacher recruitment policies to be assessed in the light of the findings? If the overriding concern of policy makers is to devise effective measures to reduce the so-called 'gender gap' in achievement and attitude, then it could be argued that the current hope that more men might take up teaching posts may be somewhat misplaced.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Carrington, Prof Bruce
Authors: Carrington, B., Tymms, P., and Merrell, C.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Journal Name:Teacher (Australian Council for Educational Research)

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