10 SES 05 D, Teacher Education: The development of identity
Diversifying the teaching profession is an international concern. While policy recommendations have pointed to the need to diversify the teaching population in Ireland, there is a paucity of adequate data describing our national context. Research on gender and education, nationally and internationally, often point to diverse concerns ranging from the ‘feminisation’ of schooling, to a need for greater role models for boys and young men (McGrath and Sinclair, 2013).
While there is a wealth of research internationally on the broad area of gender and education (Francis et al. 2010; Arnot and Mac an Ghaill, 2006), this paper will explore gender as a critical consideration in the movement to diversify initial teacher education (ITE), and the teaching body, in Ireland. Teaching in Ireland is especially ripe for a gender analysis given the historical and contemporaneous religious involvement in state schools and teacher education, and the unusually high proportion of single sex-schools relative to other European countries (Gorard and Smith, 2004; Smyth, 2010). In this context, it is important to consider how the call to examine gender and the teaching profession has become a part of popular educational discourse.
Since the publication of two New York Times best-selling books Real Boys (Pollock, 2000) and Raising Cain (Kindelon and Thompson, 1999), the issue of boys, schooling, and academic underachievement has been debated substantially. Arguments to consider the emotional welfare of boys, with a focus on the impact of public schooling, pointed to the gender imbalance of teaching cohorts, specifically higher numbers of female teachers in primary schools, often referred to as the ‘feminisation’ of schooling, as well as a call for more role models for boys and young men (Carrington et al., 2007; Martino and Rezai-Rashdi, 2012; Mills, 2004).
This research, which looks closely at gender where it intersects with other socio-demographic factors, will help to tease apart the various debates about gender and teaching by analysing data from an online questionnaire administered with applicants and entrants to primary and second-level, undergraduate and postgraduate ITE programmes across Ireland in 2014 (N=2,289), drawn from a national research project on Diversity in Initial Teacher Education (DITE). The survey data collected describe Irish ITE applicants’ (entrants and non-entrants) socio-demographic backgrounds (gender, age, nationality/ies, ethnicity, sexuality, socio-economic group, dis/ability, religion, languages spoken) as well as their education backgrounds, motivations to become teachers and perceptions of the teaching career.
Specifically, this paper will explore the national DITE dataset to address the following research questions:
1) What are the compositions of ITE cohorts (applicants, entrants and non-entrants) with regard to gender?
- Are there differences between different cohorts, i.e. undergraduate vs. post-graduate, primary vs. post-primary, different post-primary subject specialisms?
- Are there differences in the success rates of male vs. female applicants in the ITE selection system?
2) Are there any significant differences between male and female ITE applicants (and entrants) with regard to their age, socio-economic group background, their religious affiliation (and practice), their prior academic achievements, their competency in Irish? (the last two are ITE selection criteria in Ireland).
3) What motivates male and female ITE applicants to become teachers?
4) What are male and female ITE applicants’ experiences of schooling and their views with regard to factors impacting academic achievement?
The cross-sectional analyses will allow a more nuanced understanding regarding gender diversity in ITE which holds the potential to challenge narrow gendered assumptions and stereotypes that are shot through Irish education. When considering diversity in ITE, what are the implications of having fewer men in teaching in Ireland? To what extent can we better understand the gendered dimensions of teaching by looking closely at select gender differences of teacher education applicants?
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