This paper reports on male trainees’ reactions to a pilot year intervention in which a male-only support group was set up.
The aim of the small-scale research project reported here was to investigate male trainee teachers’ perspectives on their experiences on the PGCE.
The study thus draws on in-depth interviews undertaken with male trainees on an EYP PGCE course in one UK Higher Education Institution (HEI) during 2006–07.
There were 12 men (two early years and ten primary) and 148 female trainees on the EYP PG in 2006–07, divided into six tutor groups.
In order to support male trainees, the authors have historically organised tutor groups to contain more than one male trainee whenever possible.
The participants included two trainees who had not attended any of meetings.
Overall, male trainees’ responses indicated that the introduction of the male-only group was an effective strategy to address the issue of being vulnerable and feeling ‘isolated’ in a female-dominated environment.
The male trainees interviewed felt they had not been disadvantaged, treated differently to their female peers or discriminated against during the Faculty taught course.
At the end of the pilot project year, all male trainees had successfully completed their examined placements and none had withdrawn from the course, significantly reversing trends from previous years.
Drawing on male trainee teachers’ narratives, the research has shown that the way the meetings were conducted and structured was crucial to the male trainees’ commitment on the course.
The establishment of the male-only group sought to raise awareness of the gender imbalance of staff in primary schools and associated potential issues for the trainees’ consideration.
This research indicates that this is particularly pertinent for male trainees, who have fewer opportunities to gain insight into their evolving self-image and professional identities due to the lack of male teachers.
The authors believe that central to the success of this initiative was the active involvement at all meetings of practicing male teachers and the directly relevant foci of the meetings, determined by the trainees and invited teachers.
The structure and content of the meetings and discursive processes were instrumental to its success.
Furthermore, the composition of the group seems to be of some importance.
The involvement of experienced male teachers in the meetings supported trainees in analysing and critically reflecting upon different interpretations of their roles in school.
The presence of a designated male member of the Faculty staff helped to scaffold discourse in a situation.
The authors would argue that being able to participate in this male-only forum – where the trainees feel comfortable and supported – promotes development of personal values and induction into a professional culture in a manner that trainees can interpret for their individual contexts.
Therefore, the authors conclude that similar support mechanisms for this vulnerable group should continue during their challenging first years of teaching.
In addition, local authorities might consider establishing similar male-only groups as part of newly qualified teachers’ induction programmes.