ERG SES G 05, Gender and Education
This research attempts to investigate how the notion gendered reflexivity would function as a conceptual tool for teacher educators to make visible and deconstruct their intellectual configurations about gender issues that are embedded in the dominant discourses and practices within the field of teacher education. The impact of teaching and learning processes, and teachers’ practices and discourses in schools on maintaining or shaping dominant gender discourses is evident considering the existing feminist research. Gender issues in teacher education, on the other hand, have received little attention compared with those in schools or in other academic or professional disciplines (Coffey & Acker, 1991; Malmgren & Weiner, 2001; Younger & Warrington, 2008; Menzies & Santoro, 2017). Coffey and Acker (1991) contends that lack of official guidance, traditional teacher ideologies, identification of teaching as a women’s work and teachers’ working conditions are the main factors that cause gender to be located to a marginal position in teacher education. Weiner (2000, p. 243) argues that the fear of feminism among teacher educators can be attributed to the fact that gender is perceived as a ‘contentious or political topic’ and focusing on it is interpreted as ‘anti-male and divisive’. Gender is given a marginal position in teacher education in the Turkish context as well. Esen (2013) points out the lack of focus on gender issues in teacher education policies and programs in Turkey, and emphasizes the need for empowering teacher education research with a gendered view by mainly focusing on teacher education processes, materials, and teacher educators’ practices and attitudes. The low status given to gender in teacher education policies and programs lead to teachers’ lack of understanding of the complexities of gender (Younger, 2007; Younger & Warrington, 2008). In addition, teacher educators’ negative perception of gender may deprive them of “utilizing the theoretical and praxis insights of feminism to challenge the derogation of largely female education professions such as teaching, or to develop anti-sexist practices and strategies” (Malmgren & Weiner, 2001, p. 240).
The fact that gender is perceived as a taboo subject and remains to be an issue considered from a limited point of view in teacher education perpetuates the reproduction of gender inequalities in the field. Raising individuals’ awareness of gender issues is essential as a first step to deal with this problem, but more is needed to prevent the reproduction of gender inequalities. Reflexivity, which promotes the thought of thought which directs individuals’ actions, and the transformation of the thought can be used to put an end to the vicious circle of reproduction. Reflexivity that is introduced by Bourdieu into the field of social sciences as a sociological point of view can be employed to this end. Reflexivity is a process requiring “the systematic exploration of the unthought categories of thought which delimit the thinkable and predetermine the thought” (Bourdieu & Wacquant, 1992, p. 40). What Bourdieu defines as reflexivity can be seen as a kind of conscious comprehension (Schritaro & Webb, 2003), and an action that serves to transform individuals’ way of thinking. Thus this research attempts to transform the participants’ way of thinking about gender by enabling them to engage in a constant self-reflexive process. Such a process can provide understanding of how they position themselves as teacher educators vis-à-vis the gender issues embedded in the field. As teacher educators’ gendered practices and discourses are shaped by the structures embedded in the field, it is essential to consider the relations between the field and the habitus, and teacher educators’ positions and dispositions.
This research utilized a phenomenological research design to explore the essence of the participants’ experiences which direct their gendered practices and discourses as teacher educators. Creswell (2007, p. 58) points out that “a composite description of the essence of the experience" is of importance in phenomenological research. So this research was aimed at investigating the intellectual configurations which form the patterns of teacher educators’ gendered practices, and at offering suggestions for transforming these structures. While doing this, it must be taken into consideration that the subject can be seen “as socially embedded, as embodied dispositions shaped by one’s location within social fields” according to Bourdieu (Kenway & McLeod, 2004), so we are also examining the field of teacher education and the habitus deeply in this research. The participants are 21 teacher educators (10 female, 11 male) working at one of the well-established faculties of education in Ankara, Turkey. We followed a two-phased data construction process. In the first phase, two focus group discussions were held with 11 research assistants to reveal dominant gender practices and stereotypes embedded in their experiences as teacher educators at the faculty. In the second phase of data construction, two more focus group discussions were held with 10 assistant and associate professors. The purpose of these focus group discussions was to start a process of gendered reflexivity to promote the teacher educators’ awareness of gender issues in the field of teacher education through self- reflexivity, and to reveal the implications of this process which helps make visible and deconstruct the taken-for-granted structures in the field.
The preliminary results indicate that the teacher educators participated in the focus group discussions tend to interpret gender issues in the field of teacher education within the scope of gender inequalities. On the one hand, this tendency leads teacher educators to be under an illusion that they have a full grasp of gender issues, but on the other hand it perpetuates the reproduction of gender inequalities in the field. The participants perceive being in the majority at the faculty as an advantage for female teacher educators vis-à-vis gender inequalities. However, such a perception ignores the fact that gender norms and stereotypes which are dominant in the social life are still sustained at the faculty. Furthermore, there is a dichotomous understanding of gender issues between the poles of equality and inequality, which prevents teacher educators from comprehending the complexities of gender issues. The participants’ endeavour to equate gender with inequalities and their lack of understanding its complex structure bring about gender blindness. This restrains teacher educators from thinking out of the gender structures embedded in the field by sustaining masculine domination in the faculty of education. Unless teacher educators go out of the frame of predetermined structures, they cannot overcome this blindness. In this respect, gendered reflexivity can serve as a valuable tool for becoming aware of the fact that the gender issues they experience in the faculty should not be taken for granted, for making visible what is embedded, and for turning this self-reflexive process into an integrated component of their teaching practices.
Bourdieu, P., & Wacquant, L. J. D. (1992). An invitation to reflexive sociology. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. Coffey, A. J., & Acker, S. (1991). ‘Girlies on the Warpath’: Addressing gender in initial teacher education. Gender and Education, 3(3), 249-261. DOI: 10.1080/0954025910030303 Creswell, J. W. (2007). Qualitative inquiry research design: Choosing among five approaches (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Esen, Y. (2013). Hizmet öncesi öğretmen eğitiminde toplumsal cinsiyet duyarlılığını geliştirme amaçlı bir çalışma [A study for developing gender sensitivity in pre-service teacher education]. Education and Science, 38(169), 281-295. Kenway, J., & McLeod, J. (2004). Bourdieu’s reflexive sociology and ‘spaces of points of view’: Whose reflexivity, which perspective? British Journal of Sociology of Education, 25(4), 525-544. DOI: 10.1080/0142569042000236998 Malmgren, G., & Weiner, G. (2001). Disturbing boundaries in teacher education: Gender and the ‘F’ word – feminism. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 5(2/3), 237-255. DOI: 10.1080/13603110010020787 Menzies, F. G., & Santoro, N. (2017). ‘Doing’ gender in a rural Scottish secondary school: an ethnographic study of classroom interactions, Ethnography and Education. DOI: 10.1080/17457823.1351386 Schirato, T., & Webb, J. (2003). Bourdieu’s concept of reflexivity as metaliteracy. Cultural Studies, 17(3-4), 539-553. DOI: 10.1080/0950238032000083935 Weiner, G. (2000). A critical review of gender and teacher education in Europe. Pedagogy, Culture & Society, 8(2), 233-247. DOI: 10.1080/14681360000200091 Younger, M. 2007. The gender agenda in secondary ITET in England: Forgotten, misconceived or what? Gender and Education, 19(3), 387–414. DOI: 10.1080/09540250701295528 Younger, M., & Warrington, M. (2008). The gender agenda in primary teacher education in England: Fifteen lost years? Journal of Education Policy, 23(4), 429–445. DOI: 10.1080/02680930802054396
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