Teacher gender no issue for pupils

Posted on 27 July 2011


By John Lewis on Wed, 27 Jul 2011

Male teachers are not essential if research involving Otago school pupils is anything to go by.

While concern in education circles about the declining number of men in the teaching profession has grown, research by University of Otago College of Education lecturer Steven Sexton shows Otago school pupils did not see the gender of their teacher as being integral to the quality of their education.

And attempts by schools to gender match pupils and teachers were “misguided”.

“One implication from this research is around the issue of apparently inappropriate media-generated panic issues around the need for more male teachers in schools,” Dr Sexton said.

“Most students do not see the gender of the teacher as important. In almost all participants’ opinion, it was the characteristics or personality of the teacher that mattered.”

Dr Sexton said gender only became relevant when pupils talked about relating to teachers on a personal level about personal issues.

“Most students do not think having a male or female teacher mattered when it was subject related, with the exception of years 9-13 boys discussing sex education – they thought it was easier with a male teacher.”

The findings come from a survey of 74 pupils from 16 Otago primary, intermediate and secondary schools, titled The Other Side of the Chalk Face: Students’ Perceptions of Teachers and Teaching.

The pupils – from single-sex, co-educational, mainstream, religious, boarding, and high-, medium- and low-decile schools – were surveyed on how they saw the role of their teachers and what teaching methods worked for them.

Dr Sexton said year 1-4 pupils wanted their teacher to make them feel physically safe. After that, pupils moved on to issues around emotional and mental safety in both the classroom and the wider school.

Years 5-8 pupils had a strong sense of justice and wanted to know the teacher was firm but fair, he said.

“Students also reported concerns over teachers who extended their negative attitude about either personal issues or school-related issues into the classroom, affecting students’ attitudes.”

Dr Sexton said pupils in years 9-13 wanted teachers to have a passion for the subjects they were teaching, as well as the ability to inspire them to learn more about the subject.

Otago Primary Principals’ Association secretary and Wakari School principal Brent Caldwell said the need for male teachers was determined not by schools, but by society.

“Children are very perceptive. They know that gender is not the determining factor when it comes to quality teaching.

“They know that it is the passion, commitment and dedication to their learning by trusted adults that makes the difference for them.

“These attributes are common to all good teachers, regardless of gender.”

Otago Secondary Principals’ Association acting president and Kaikorai Valley College Principal Philip Craigie agreed.

“When you employ a teacher, it comes down to the qualities they offer. You choose the best person for the job – gender doesn’t come into it.

“But I do think it is important that the workforce is represented by both genders.”

Research findings
What pupils want:
• Years 1-4: Teachers who are happy and fun.
• Years 5-8: Teachers who have a sense of humour and who are kind and caring.
• Years 9-13: Teachers who are knowledgeable and passionate about their class subject, and are able to control the class in a relaxed way.
What pupils do not want:
• Years 1-4: Teachers who get angry or growl in class, and break their promises.
• Years 5-8: Teachers who are sarcastic, grumpy or moody.
• Years 9-13: Teachers who have favourite pupils; do the job just to get a pay cheque; cannot relate their subject to their pupils.
(Source: The Other Side of the Chalk Face: Students’ Perceptions of Teachers and Teaching)


Posted in: gender, school, teacher