Diversity in Primary Teacher Education Gender Differences in Student Factors and Curriculum Perception

Oct. 01, 2011

Source: Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, Vol. 17, No. 5, October 2011, 575–596
(Reviewed by the Portal team)

In this article, the authors are interested to know whether male and female students perceive the curriculum differently.

Research questions
A small-scale research project was set up to explore the question:
Can gender-specific student factors be identified in relation to the initial teacher education curriculum that leads to the differences in the dropout rate?

In order to answer the central question two constituent sub-questions are formulated:
(1) Are motivation for the profession and expectations concerning the educational programme gender-specific?
(2) Are there any differences in the way male and female students perceive the curriculum?

Data were collected among a group of 15 female and 15 male primary student teachers from one teacher training college in the Netherland.
Apart from gender the experimental group was composed as homogeneously as possible as to previous education, ethnicity and age.

The authors used a qualitative research approach.

Professional motives and expectations concerning the curriculum were investigated by interviewing the participants at the beginning of their training and after two-and-a-half years.
In addition, the authors used two different methods, each of them at a different time, to measure whether curriculum perception is gender-specific: content analysis on portfolios and interviews.


The authors found gender differences in student factors as well as in the way male and female students perceive the curriculum.
Concerning the student factors, males and females differ in professional motivation and expectations concerning the curriculum at the start of their training and after two-and-a-half years.

The authors found underlying gender differences in five dimensions:
Male students are more content-oriented whereas female students are more pupils oriented;

Males are more extrinsically motivated for the profession as well as for learning in general vs the females who are more intrinsically motivated;

Male students have an orientation on life and the world around them that is more material than that of women, who are more people-oriented;
Female students feel more dependant on support and approval by others than male students do; and finally, the way in which the male students approach the curriculum is more closed vs the more open approach of female students.


The authors conclude that there is a correspondence between these student factors and the differences in curriculum perception.
Male students, being more interested in content and things, find curriculum subjects like pedagogy and educational science less interesting and prefer subjects like history and geography.

A shortage of intrinsic motivation makes it more difficult for male students to fulfil the large number of papers whereas women like writing them.
Whereas male students are less open to guidance from the institute, they are much more and faster dissatisfied which causes to decide more frequently to drop out.

Finally, male students who initially opt for primary teacher education often have had to overcome resistance in their circle of family and friends, but have persisted in spite of it. Subsequently, they find themselves in a training course that employs professional concepts foreign to them and an atmosphere that is often too feminine to their liking.

The authors argue that these gender differences may explain the gender-specific performance.
Due to these results, it is possible that boys perform better in schools if cared for by female teachers because of the more pupil/learning process oriented female attitude and their typically female ‘other orientation’.

Furthermore, gender differences in orientation – things vs human beings – might lead to less enthusiasm for subjects like math, physics, geography and astrology in schools with a feminised teaching staff.

Updated: Feb. 19, 2014