Does teacher gender impact discipline strategies?

Does teacher gender impact discipline strategies?

Teaching is often seen as a 'female' profession, which some experts have suggested may be the reason fewer men take on the important role.

In the UK, where more than 85% of all primary school teachers are female, a study recently found that teacher gender has no effect on how male and female teachers employ discipline strategies used in primary school classrooms.

The researchers, from the Universities of Hertfordshire and Hildesheim, compared the language and the discipline tactics of eight male and eight female teachers in the UK and Germany.

According to the results, both genders use a combination of both direct (stereotyped as hard / masculine) and indirect (stereotyped as passive / feminine) linguistic styles to perform discipline.

The study’s lead author, Dr Joanne McDowell, said teaching is “often thought as only suitable for those with female characteristics”.

“Furthermore, we see recurrent government incentives trying to recruit more men with claims that they are needed to enforce 'tough' discipline and to be a 'male' role model to control boys, all claimed to be needed in order to close the persistent gender achievement gap,” McDowell said.

All this does, said Dr McDowell, is create further misleading job stereotypes.

“By raising awareness of primary school teachers' linguistic behaviour we may be able to start de-gendering attitudes towards the job and only then may we see more men taking up such professional occupations,” she said.

To shift the thinking about professions in a gendered way, Dr McDowell said schools need to examine how they are linguistically performed and the professional identity that is constructed.

“Examining language can be the key to re-thinking these occupations and more still, who can work within them,” she said.

“De-stereotyping who we think can perform the role is of key importance as we need more qualified teachers in the UK. We need to stop thinking about occupations in gendered ways in order to recruit more of the 'other' genders into such roles.”

According to Dr McDowell, more male teachers are needed not because men bring something different to the role as government and recruitment initiatives may suggest, but because schools need more teachers.

“Pupils need teachers that are representative of society,” she said.