ERIC Identifier: ED408277
Publication Date: 1997-05-00
Author: Sanders, Jo
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Teaching
and Teacher Education Washington DC.
Teacher Education and Gender Equity. ERIC Digest.
Those learning how to teach today will be responsible for teaching the next
two generations of Americans. If we want an America in which girls and boys are
treated, and treat each other, with respect and kindness, and in which girls as
well as boys are urged and expected to fulfill their potential without
restriction, then we must begin teaching about gender equity in our teacher
education programs as a matter of course.
HOW IS GENDER INEQUITY MANIFESTED?
Fennema (1990) defines
gender equity as the set of behaviors and knowledge that permits educators to
recognize inequality in educational opportunities, to carry out specific
interventions that constitute equal educational treatment, and to ensure equal
educational outcomes. Accordingly, what should teacher educators be teaching
preservice students about gender equity?
EXPECTATIONS AND ATTITUDES
The notions that males excel in
mathematics, science, and technology and that females excel in the arts are two
of many beliefs and cultural influences that are passed down through
generations. The dynamic is all the more powerful in that adults may not realize
they are holding these beliefs and acting on them. Subtle and unintended
messages can create the idea among girls and boys that there are fields they
cannot be successful in because of their sex. Children reflect and reinforce
this attitude through their peer interactions.
Gender-biased attitudes become a
self-fulfilling prophecy, strengthened by the fact that many girls attribute
their success as due to luck, which is fickle, while many boys attribute theirs
to ability, which is reliable. This helps to explain the lower self-confidence,
despite higher performance, of many girls in school. It is essential that
preservice students develop the ability to decipher these messages in order to
counteract them (American Association of University Women Educational Foundation
CURRICULUM AND ASSESSMENT
Curriculum materials that are
biased in language, content, and/or illustrations reinforce the idea that some
fields are gender specific. Preservice teachers need to learn to perceive the
usually subtle but powerful cumulative impact of curriculum materials on girls'
and boys' understanding of the world and their places in it, and to learn to
teach in ways that enable students to relate to all aspects of the world without
limitation (Rosser, 1990).
CLASSROOM CLIMATE AND HARASSMENT
Years of research have
documented unequal and too often unfriendly classroom environments for girls and
for some boys (Sandler, Silverberg, & Hall, 1996; Sadker, M. & Sadker,
D., 1994; Lockheed, 1985). Teachers are almost always unaware of the biased
behaviors they exhibit through verbal interactions, eye contact, and body
language, which means they cannot correct themselves. When preservice teachers
learn about these behaviors at the start of their careers, bias is much more
amenable to conscious control.
Student-to-student behavior is another problem area when boys are permitted
to harass girls (and other boys) sexually or otherwise because this is seen as
normal male behavior. Preservice students need to understand that the recipient
of such behavior cannot be expected to learn well and that those who perpetrate
it are also poorly served (Streitmatter, 1994).
In many schools of education, the
administration department faculty tends to be more male, which parallels
superintendents and principals in school districts, especially at the high
school level. The curriculum department faculty tend to be more female, which
parallels classroom teachers, especially at the elementary level. Education
deans are more likely to be male; however the number of female department chairs
is increasing. This overall model perpetuates an unequal division of influence
and reward in the education establishment.
GENDER EQUITY, TEACHER EDUCATION, AND REFORM
has received considerable attention in K-12 education since Title IX of the
Education Amendments of 1972, but not in teacher education. Unlike special and
bilingual education, for example, gender equity is not thought to merit whole
departments or even courses. Yet, teacher education is the point at which future
educators are accessible in methods and foundations courses, are there to learn,
have time to learn, and don't have years of bad teaching habits to undo. Unlike
one-shot inservice workshops, semester-length courses permit real change. This
is also the only point when future teachers are able to observe equities and
inequities by other teachers in the classroom, and to experiment with their own
It is important for inservice educators to understand gender equity and the
relatively easy ways to reverse the messages of inequity (Sanders, 1994).
However, teacher education textbooks virtually ignore the subject. A 1980
analysis of 24 commonly used texts published since 1972 found that 23 of them
gave less than 1% of space to gender issues, and a third didn't mention the
topic at all (Sadker, D. & Sadker, M., 1980). In a 1993 update on this
theme, Titus analyzed 8 post-1990 teacher education textbooks and concluded that
the most widely used foundations textbooks still do not include significant
material on gender equity.
In a Michigan survey of 30 administrators and 247 faculty members from 30
preservice teacher education programs statewide, it was found that only 11% of
respondents reported extensive gender equity instruction and 38% reported
minimal to no gender equity instruction. Respondents thought gender equity
should be taught more and said more interest from students and colleagues and
more coverage in the professional literature would help (Mader, 1994).
A survey of 353 methods instructors in mathematics, science, and technology
nationwide revealed that while three-fourths of the respondents said they taught
gender equity, they did so less than 2 hours per semester. Respondents felt that
specific teaching strategies would be most helpful and that gender equity was an
important social issue (Campbell & Sanders, 1997).
WHAT EFFORTS ARE BEING MADE?
The Teacher Education Equity
Project (1993-96, National Science Foundation (NSF), IBM, Hewlett Packard, and
AT&T funding) was conducted at the City University of New York Graduate
Center. Sixty-one professors of mathematics, science, and technology education
from 40 colleges and universities in 28 states learned how to teach gender
equity to their preservice methods students and carried out mini-grant projects.
Evaluation results indicated that 85% of the professors made significant
improvements in their gender equity teaching behavior, with a tripling of
syllabi containing gender equity (Sanders, Campbell, & Steinbrueck, 1996).
Materials for including gender equity in teacher education via classroom
observations, action research projects, and student assignments are now becoming
available (Sanders, Koch, & Urso, in press).
A statewide project, Integrating Gender Equity and Reform (1995-98, NSF
funding), involves Georgia Institute of Technology as the lead institution among
six other universities and organizations. This project will help teacher
educators with materials and methods for teaching gender equity to preservice
The Teacher Education Mentor Project (1996-99, NSF funding) is designed to
make gender equity instruction more systemically taught in mathematics, science,
and technology education programs. Teams of teacher educators, partner school
personnel, and others at seven colleges and universities will participate.
The Marymount Institute for the Education of Women and Girls in Tarrytown,
New York, has a major focus on gender equity in teacher education.
In 1996, the U.S. Department of Education's Gender Equity Expert Panel,
including a subpanel on teacher preparation, began work to design and implement
a process for identifying, reviewing, and recommending promising and exemplary
programs, products, and practices to educators and community members.
In gender equity, teacher education is a last
frontier that is finally beginning to open up. Materials are now being
developed, professional publications are beginning to cover gender equity
issues, professional meetings are devoting some time to it, and individual
teacher educators are starting to become concerned about it. Gender equity could
become a hot topic in teacher education, just in time for the next two
References identified with an EJ or ED number
have been abstracted and are in the ERIC database. Journal articles (EJ) should
be available at most research libraries; most documents (ED) are available in
microfiche collections at more than 1,000 locations. Documents can also be
ordered through the ERIC Document Reproduction Service: (800) 443-ERIC.
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