Gender Training for Teachers

Rationale for Gender Equity Training

Gender-equity teacher training has two aspects. The first is to change the teacher's classroom practices. The second aspect encompasses creating teacher-awareness of the changes to be made in one's own life, so that they can actually become a role model who has achieved gender-equity and can implicitly demonstrate it. Therefore, these two aspects of teachers' education programs make gender-equity teacher training applicable to Prochaska's model for change.

The first portion of this paper examines either breaking old habits or making new habits for teachers in the classrooms. The vast majority of teacher-training programs do not require that they become gender-aware. Although much has undoubtedly been done over the last 20 years, there is still room for improvement. Kleinman (1998) argues that young females may also have different instructional preferences than males when learning science, which may lead to greater engagement in the subject matter. In science classes, females have been shown to prefer group learning (comprehensibility and activity), to solve relevant problems (personal relevance), and to require some examples of females’ contributions to science to develop a "me too" perspective (McGinnis & Pearsall, 1998). Therefore, teaching methods should be addressed.

In essence, providing young females the encouragement to undertake studies in the requisite sciences seems obvious, yet in a recent study, teachers had exhibited reluctance to change. In a survey of US and Australian science teachers, these teachers reported that boys are more confident, interested, and more adept at science than girls, yet felt that science is equally important for both. Nevertheless, these same teachers were worried that if they changed their teaching methods to more favorable practices for females, they may "reverse discriminate" against males. These teachers were disinclined to apply different methods because of this concern (Plucker, 1996). The unstated assumption then is that it is better to discriminate against females than males and the resounding message these teachers give is that science is more important for boys. Therefore, if unaware teachers present science in ways that are personally unappealing to young females, the result is that they may not be interested in their science classes which would lead to sciences as a field of study. Further, the fact that many women are now "making it" in the sciences does not mean that adapting to a system which is innately foreign to them because it is laden with male norms does not impose additional stresses to these young women. In a sense, they have to learn to be bicultural.

Research has shown that many of the teaching practices that are beneficial for young women would also be beneficial for young men as well. If we consider the work of Covington (1994), the quality of student-teacher interactions, advocacy of more mastery based education, and collaboration are techniques which are beneficial for all students. Therefore, the changes would benefit everybody, not simply females. However, not only must some of the global changes in teaching approaches take place, the subtle, perhaps biased, day to day practices of teachers' would need to be addressed also. This would require a mentor teacher to help monitor and support these teachers to undergo changes.

Intervening with Personal Biases

Prochaska's model may also be used for the creating personal change in the lives of teachers so that they themselves may become truly "ungendered". This may not be intuitively obvious to many people who feel themselves to be liberated. However, due to the stringent and tacit nature of gender roles, these "gendered" rules may be beyond the scope of most people's awareness. For example, Devine's (1989) research on prejudice determined that although individuals may have changed their opinions about certain groups that they have negatively stereotyped, they may not have changed corresponding evaluations or behaviors toward a certain group. In her estimation, changing stereotypic patterns of prejudice, no matter how subtle, requires the same sort of effort as in breaking a bad habit. She goes on to argue that although the belief systems of individuals have changed, the underlying memories of prejudice have not been erased from their cognitive structures. She states that changing early ingrained patterns of prejudice require more than conscious awareness of the problem. It requires intention, attention and time to completely obliterate the underlying belief patterns.

Therefore, teachers make interpersonal changes that reflect to their students that they are not just gender-sensitive, but empowered in their ways of thinking, their lifestyles, and their teaching practices. This implies that the changes must be deep, real and meaningful. In essence, this is when teachers become true role models for their students.

Based Upon the Five Stages of Changing for Good

Overview of Teachers in the Classroom Development and Implementation Strategies for Gender-Equity

Changing the uncovering hidden biases, unconscious behaviors, hidden expectations between gender, gender-unfriendly teaching styles, teaching methods, personal patterns of behaviors, interaction styles and patterns and finally classroom environments is the goal of this teacher-training module.

I. Stage One --- Pre-contemplation - (Consciousness Raising)

During this stage, mentor teachers must work hard to identify the teacher's unconscious practices and biases. This may require personal interviews, teacher workshops and classroom observations. The teachers may think they are gender-free, but in reality, have changes to make in their questioning styles, interactions, and teaching methods and overall classroom environment.

A. Issues for Beginning to Raise Awareness

Breaking Down Defense Mechanisms: Rationalization, Projection and Displacement, Internalization, Denial and Minimization

B. Developmental and Environmental Pressures (Social Liberation)

During the process of social liberation, teachers become change agents and advocates for gender-equity in the classroom. These activities may include making posters and handouts for the classroom, taking part in school-based training programs, and to begin regular reading of advocacy materials.

C. Teacher Training Issues

Assessment of their sensitivity to gender issues

Uncovering their biases, interactions patterns, feedback styles, and confronting their beliefs, hidden expectations, general awareness issues such as textbook analysis, media portrayals, etc.

Observations from mentor teachers, assessment from teacher-training workshops

Journaling, Diaries, Self-reflective teaching practices, recording classroom interactions and feedback styles

D. Consciousness Raising Questions for Questions for Self-Evaluation of Readiness for Next Phase

1. I encounter situations that are designed to bring recognition of unconscious biases.

2. I find that my school is changing in ways that make it easier for me to change.

3. I notice people with the same issues I have confronting their behaviors and beliefs.

4. I have become aware of people who have successfully changed themselves.

II. Stage Two --- Contemplation Stage (Consciousness Raising, Social Liberation, Emotional Arousal, Self-Re-Evaluation)

During this stage, consciousness raising and social liberation strategies continue. However, emotional arousal and self-re-evaluation must continue. Emotional arousal can be induced by several means and the teacher is presented with materials and input which should be designed to evoke feelings about the topic. Self-reevaluation would be the consequence of changed feelings as a result of emotional experiences surrounding the topic.


A. Emotional Arousal - Questions for Self-Evaluation of Readiness for Next Phase

1. I recognize the consequences of my unfair practices and it disturbs me now.

2. I react emotionally to negative consequences of old teaching practices.

3. Thinking about the negative consequences of my teaching practices concerns me.

4. Warnings about the consequences of my practices cause discomfort.

B. Self-Re-Evaluation Questions for Self-Evaluation of Readiness for Next Phase

1. I consider that my significant others would be better without my problem.

2. My tendency to give into to my behavior makes me feel disappointed in myself.

3. I reassess the fact that being content with myself includes changing this behavior.

4. I get upset when I think about giving into my problem.

C. Teacher Training Actions

Providing relevant examples for females in sciences (individuals and examples)

Movies such as Pinks and Blues

Statistics in and studies in education on gender issues

Media biases uncovered and portrayals of females in degrading and empowered situations

Education on classroom dynamics due to gender differences

III. Stage Three ---Preparation Stage --- (Commitment, Helping Relationships and Pros&Cons List)

Stage three has to do with the preparation for making changes. During this stage, teachers will become deepen their commitment to change. They will make a detailed plan, including small steps, announce their decision to change classrooms to include different practices and evaluate the pros and cons of changing their teaching behaviors.

A. Commitment

Commitment requires making a choice to change, setting a date for change, perhaps after a school holiday, encountering uneasiness or uncertainty about changing, taking and charting small steps, creating a detailed, step-by-step plan of action, anticipating changes of student-student and teacher-student dynamics in the classroom.

B. Questions for Self-Evaluation of Readiness for Next Phase

1. I tell myself that if I plan well enough and have adequate materials, I can make a smoother transition.

2. I make commitments against giving into my old practices that may be easier to implement.

4. I tell myself I can chose to change or not, but I have decided this is worthwhile for all my students.

C. Pros and Cons List (A short sample but teachers would construct some of their own items)

1. Some parents, students and administrators would think less of me if I changed.

2. Changing takes time and effort. Don't expect instant success or approval.

3. All students would be better off if I changed my classroom to cooperative, gender-free environments.

5. I am concerned I might fail if I try (or bring about negative consequences).

6. The overall class would function better if I change.

7. I would have to give up some of the short cuts and old patterns I am comfortable with.

8. Ultimately, everyone will get benefits from my new behavior.

11. Some people benefit (more able students and males) from my current behavior.

12. I would feel more ethical if I changed.

13. Some parents, teachers and administrators would admire my changes.

D. Teaching Actions

Supplying tactics to intervene in gender-biased classroom situations

Providing training for using collaborative grouping methods

Retraining of teaching feedback and interactions and more egalitarian use of these

Teaching analysis of language, textbooks and materials in the classroom

Providing a mentoring or master teacher support system with regularly scheduled meetings

IV. Stage Four --- Action Stage (Assertiveness, Environmental Control, Rewards, Helping Relationships)

The action stage is when the practices and behaviors of teachers and classrooms take an outward form. All the other stages have been building up to this stage. However, it must be noted that the continuing change to the inner psyche of the teacher should still be ongoing. Teaching verbal countering (assertions) and countering behaviors are crucial at this phase.

A. Assertiveness

The numerous benefits are decreased anxiety and anger and neuroses, increased self-respect, communication and leadership abilities, and increased satisfaction in all personal relationships. Therefore, the teacher should be assertive in describing why these changes should be made to fellow teachers and administrators or even parents should the occasion arise.

B. Environmental Control

Environmental control implies that the outer world of the classroom should contain reminders of the changes to take place, cues to elicit those behaviors by students, and avoidance of negative classroom situations as well as critical people within the school.

C. Rewards, and Helping Relationships

Teachers should indulge in rewards, and give students rewards for adapting and participating in their newly changed classrooms. Self-Assessment should be realistic not punitive for shortcomings and failures and the mentor to teacher relationship should be ongoing.

D. Teaching Actions

Making gender-awareness interventions in the classroom with children

Raising the consciousness of students

Utilizing a mastery approach in science and math as often as possible

Stopping the public display of scores and comparisons

Forming integrated teams with girls' and boys as team leaders

Using cooperative group methods such as the jigsaw

Placing posters and classroom decorations highlighting women as scientists and leaders

Replacing biased texts when possible

Creating new materials to encompass a broader range of students

Noting all feedback patterns and insuring that language is gender-free

V. Stage Five --- Maintenance Stage

In this stage, action has been undertaken and the teacher must continue on with their plans. They must confront doubts, shortcomings of their plans, and a reassessment of their strategies. Evaluation at this stage is ongoing and continuous until the changes have been completely integrated into the teachers and their classrooms. Continual assessment, reassessment and ongoing problem solving are essential to insure that these changes are working correctly, modified when needed and ingrained into the system.

A. Teacher-Mentor Actions

Building an ongoing awareness of their roles as gender-fair instructors

Raising the consciousness of other staff

Monthly mentor meeting

Six month self-evaluations

Classroom Observations

Personal Empowerment Activities


Covington, M. (1998). The will to learn. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Devine, P. (1989). Stereotypes and Prejudice: Their automatic and controlled components. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 56(1), 5-18.

Kleinman, S. (1998). Overview of feminist perspectives on the ideology of science. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 35(3), 837-844.

McGinnis, R., & Pearsall J. (1998). Teaching elementary science methods to females: A male professor’s experience from two perspectives. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 35(3), 919-949.

Plucker, J. (1996). Secondary science and mathematics teachers and gender equity: Attitudes and attempted interventions. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 33(7), 737-751

Prochaska, J.O., Norcross, J.C., & Diclemente, C.C. (1994). Changing for good. New York, New York: . Avon Books Inc.