Sexualities of Initial Teacher Education Applicants in the Republic of Ireland: Addressing the Hidden Dimension of Diversity in Teaching

Feb. 20, 2017

Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, Vol. 43, No. 1, 99–116, 2017
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The present paper examines initial teacher education (ITE) students’ sexual orientations and the intersections of students’ sexualities, socio-demographic backgrounds and career motivations.

This study is part of the larger ‘Diversity in Initial Teacher Education (DITE) in Ireland’ national project, funded by the Irish Research Council. DITE aims to collect and analyse data from applicants and entrants to state-funded initial teacher education (ITE) programmes in Ireland to examine and compare their socio-demographic profiles, career motivations, educational experiences and experiences with diversity.
The participants were 746 students in Professional Master in Education (PME) programme offered by universities and colleges in Ireland during 2014-2016.
Data were collected through DITE questionnaire.


The findings reveal that although LGBT people experience considerable covert and overt social, institutional and religious barriers when applying for and entering ITE programmes in Ireland, they are highly motivated and committed to a teaching career. Their strong desire to change the of young people, together with their personal experiences of schooling uniquely position them to challenge and disrupt heteronormativity and sexual discrimination in schools and in ITE.
The results show that non-heterosexual ITE applicants have thought more carefully about becoming a teacher and it is likely that the careful consideration of the described institutional barriers and risk to personal wellbeing act as deterrents for LGBT people, who may be interested in and suited for but ultimately decide against a teaching career.
For those non-heterosexual applicants who enter ITE programmes there is a high likelihood that their personal identity development and, as a result, educational outcomes will be compromised by a pedagogical space that openly rejects a central part of their identity. Furthermore, they are likely to have experienced discrimination and suffering as young learners in the educational system.

Policy makers and teacher educators concerned about diversifying the teaching profession need to recognise the injustice experienced by LGBT teachers in the Irish education system.
They also have to initiate open discussions about obstacles and possible affirmative action strategies.
Applications from non-heterosexual applicants may be explicitly encouraged in promotional materials and events and continued support assured. This support could consist of taking more action to provide respect, recognition and care for non-heterosexual ITE students in third-level institutions and by committing to the inclusion of sexuality as a core dimension of diversity in ITE programmes’ social justice syllabi.
A commitment to diversity and social justice will necessitate that teachers and teacher educators become active agents who understand, engage, and transform the educational institutions that produce heterosexism and other forms of discrimination.

Updated: Oct. 18, 2017