Gender in Teaching: A Literature Review

Oct. 15, 2007

Source: Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, Volume 13, Issue 5 October 2007, pages 521 – 538

Internationally, both in popular and scientific media, debates occasionally emerge concerning the possible (negative) consequences of feminisation tendencies in the teaching staff. In these discussions, various assumptions about the 'nature' of male and female teachers and masculinity and femininity are expressed. Male and female teachers are often presumed to differ in teaching styles, capacities and effects on both the teaching profession and the pupils. The arguments used in these debates only seldom refer to particular theoretical grounds or to empirical evidence. Moreover, apart from Sandra Acker's essay 'Gender and teachers' work' in 1995, educational research lacks an up-to-date review of teacher gender. Therefore, this article aims to provide insight into contemporary theoretical gender perspectives. It also intends to connect these with empirical research that takes teacher gender into account.

Most of the research studies referred to in this article do not explicitly state their underlying theoretical principles. Yet, since these studies have distinct research foci, research questions, methodologies and conclusions, they appear to depart from a variety of gender conceptualisations. Therefore, in this article the differences between these conceptualisations will be examined and the divergent theoretical assumptions underlying these studies will be revealed. The two most widespread and disparate perspectives in gender theory are the essentialist perspectives on the one hand and the constructionist perspectives on the other. The differences between them are made up by the degree to which explanations are deterministic and focused on the individual rather than on the social and cultural level. Drawing upon this theoretical contrast, we divided the body of research on teacher gender into two divergent research traditions: sex differences research and gender dynamics research. The research questions, underlying theoretical principles and methodologies of these two traditions are examined.

Acker, S. (1996) Gender and Teachers' Work, Review of Research in Education, Vol. 21, 1995 - 1996, pp. 99-162

Updated: Mar. 04, 2008