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Article

Martinette V. Horner, Derrick D. Jordan, and Kathleen M. Brown

Academic optimism was developed in 2006 as a latent concept that provides insight into the improvement of student outcomes especially for those who, because of socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and other demographics, have historically been labeled as underperforming. The three main components of academic optimism (academic emphasis, collective emphasis, and faculty trust) underscore the reality that the teachers, parents, and students all play a critical role in the education arena when it comes to ensuring that students fully grow and stretch to the fullest extent possible. High academic optimism in a school suggests that academic achievement is valued and supported; the faculty has the capacity to help students achieve; and students and parents can be trusted as partners of the school for student achievement. Each of these can be controlled by the actions and decisions of school leaders and faculty so that schools can overcome the effects of poverty on student achievement.

Article

Judith Meece and Charlotte Agger

Achievement motivation theories are used to understand gender discrepancies in motivation across various academic domains. Early on in the field of motivation research, researchers commonly used an attribution framework to study achievement-related outcomes among men and women. Self-efficacy theory and a revised expectancy-value theory of achievement-related choices dominate the current literature on gender differences and achievement motivation. Current trends in research on gender and academic motivation include the shifting and expanding of theoretical frameworks, a new focus on the motivation and achievement of male students, and the use of advanced methodologies and cross-national data to conduct comparative research on gender and patterns of motivation.

Article

Late 20th-century and early 21st-century social movement toward gender equality in society has been significant. Parents and educators commonly expect that all youngsters should have the same life opportunities regardless of gender. In education, girls and young women are excelling, often equaling and even surpassing boys and men in academic performance and in earning college degrees and graduate degrees. Further, women are more frequently assuming traditionally “masculine” professional roles (doctor, lawyer, manager, legislator, governor, and others) while men more frequently assume traditionally “feminine” roles, successfully taking on more child care and housework, and working in nursing and other traditionally “feminine” fields. At the same time, preferences for gender hierarchy are still strongly expressed in many areas of society. At the top of leading social institutions including government and business, men still possess far more political, economic, and intellectual leadership power and authority in comparison to women; and in reaction to political and economic power imbalances, women’s rights activists sometimes express the idea of female superiority instead of arguing for gender equality. In the area of socialization, girls and women continue experiencing high levels of gender-specific pressure to conform to narrow ideals of physical beauty and emotional supportiveness, while boys and men continue experiencing pressure to avoid communicating about their vulnerabilities and emotions, possibly stunting their emotional development and impairing their mental health. In this context, gender equality emerges as a vital, early-21st-century educational imperative that is essential in actualizing what the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has designated the right of all people to an education for the “full development of the human personality.” In the gender equality imperative’s emergence in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the following elements are all interrelated: philosophical perspectives and sociopolitical developments indicating a need for gender equality, thinking and practices opposed to gender equality, and the development of pro-gender-equality educational understandings and practices.

Article

U.S. federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education. U.S. case law also applies the prohibition of sex discrimination to incidents motivated by a person’s sex or gender, including gender identity and expression. Enumerated nondiscrimination, school-based policies that include gender identity and expression are among the foundational policies advocated for by researchers and practitioners who aim to make schools safer for transgender and gender nonconforming students. These policies serve as a foundation for all other interventions or policies that may be implemented in schools to increase safety for transgender and gender nonconforming students. Further, enumerated nondiscrimination policies provide students with a clear understanding of their rights at school, and they provide school personnel with grounding to prevent and intervene in gender-based discrimination. Research finds that transgender and gender nonconforming students experience high levels of stigma in schools (manifested as discrimination, stigma-based bullying), and that these school-based experiences are associated with compromised educational outcomes in addition to disparities in behavioral, physical, and psychological health. Students in schools that have enumerated nondiscrimination policies report less bias stigma-based bullying attributed to gender identity and expression compared to students in schools with nonenumerated policies. Further, students are more likely to report that teachers intervene in stigma-based bullying attributed to gender identity and expression in schools that have enumerated nondiscrimination policies compared to those that do not. Finally, studies find that nondiscrimination policies that include gender identity and expression attenuate the negative consequences of stigma for students.

Article

Crystal Morton, Danielle Tate McMillan, and Winterbourne Harrison-Jones

Though the formal and informal mathematics learning experiences of Black girls are gaining more visibility in the literature, there is still a paucity of research around Black girls’ mathematics learning experiences. Black girls face unique challenges as learners in K–12 educational spaces because of their marginalized racial and gender identities. The interplay of race and racism unfolds in complex ways in Black girls’ learning experiences. This interplay hinders their development as mathematics learners and limits their access to transformative learning. As early as elementary school, Black girls are labeled as having limited mathematics knowledge and are often disproportionately placed in “lower level classrooms” devoid of any rigorous and transformative learning experiences. Teachers spend more time socially correcting Black girls rather than building on their brilliance. Even though Black girls value mathematics more and have higher confidence in mathematics than their White counterparts, they are still held to lower expectations by their teachers and are less likely to complete an advanced mathematics course. Nationally and globally, mathematics serves as an academic gatekeeper into every avenue of the labor market and higher education opportunities. Thus, the lack of opportunities Black girls have to engage in rigorous and transformative mathematics potentially locks them out of higher education opportunities and STEM-based careers. The mathematics learning experiences of Black girls move beyond challenges in K–12 spaces to limiting life choices and individual and community progress. To improve the formal and informal mathematics learning experiences of Black girls, we must understand their unique learning experiences more fully.

Article

In South Africa, new legislation and policies on inclusive education in the post-apartheid era since 1994 have placed a strong emphasis on equity, equality, and human rights, as defined in the South African Constitution. As a result, a White Paper on building an inclusive education and training system was published in 2001. It acknowledges the failure of the education system to respond to the barriers to learning and development experienced by a substantial number of learners, including diverse learning needs caused by, for example, language, socioeconomic, or gender issues as well as disabilities. This policy document describes inclusive education as being based on the ideals of equity and equality and as a result recognizing and respecting learner and learning diversity within mainstream schools. As stated in the policy, in practice this means identifying and removing barriers in the education system to ensure that the full range of diverse learning needs are met in mainstream classrooms as well as providing support to learners and teachers in addressing barriers to learning and development. Research studies on the implementation of inclusive education in South Africa, however, are finding that despite the development of a wide range of implementation guidelines since 2007, complex interrelated issues continue to complicate the development of successful inclusive schools. These issues include a continued divergence of views of inclusive education with a continuing strong belief in special education and separate educational settings by most teachers, therefore leading to a resultant lack of clarity regarding the implementation of inclusive education at the level of local practice in schools and classrooms. These differences in the understanding of inclusive education and its enactment in diverse school contexts also bring the question of power and agency into South African debates about inclusive education: who should decide which version of inclusive education should be the goal of the development of inclusive education in a specific school district or a specific school. Furthermore, contextual issues including the lack of financial and human resources, for example effectively trained teachers, effectively functioning district educational support teams for schools in specific school districts, lack of textbooks, and overcrowded classrooms, play a dominant role in the development of effective inclusive schools.

Article

Pamela J. Bettis and Nicole Ferry

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of the international bestseller, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead (2013), argues that women need to engage more actively in the workplace and take the professional and emotional risks required in leadership. In many ways, Sandberg’s own story is the fulfillment of the promise of the “Alpha Girl,” Harvard psychologist Dan Kindlon’s name for the new face of girlhood. Kindlon maintains that contemporary young Western women have initiated a new era of female empowerment, with girls interested mainly in future careers and not romantic relationships. Meanwhile, the U.S. public discourse pertaining to boys frames them as troubled and in need of more attention. The popular press notes that girls outperform boys in school; that boys are more likely to repeat a grade; more likely to be diagnosed with a learning disability; and more likely to be expelled, suspended, and disciplined in school. Furthermore, adolescents who do not adhere to gender normativity or who identify as transgender are continually neglected in mainstream considerations of youth, school policies, curriculum, and educational spaces. Over the course of recent decades, U.S. discourses of adolescence and gender, including those found in popular and academic discussions, have shifted. As girls become the new models of success, as boys are deemed worthy of extra attention, and as gender-transgressive students remain absent from the discussions altogether, it is imperative that educators keep abreast of these changing discourses that shape the way we talk about and understand youth.

Article

The words diversity and multiculturalism are ubiquitous in the contemporary educational lexicon. They are certainly hallmarks in many educational conversations. Recent trials, tribulations, and triumphs in the areas of diversity and multiculturalism are not without historical context or educational precedent. The evolution of diversity and multiculturalism in the United States has been and continues to be a struggle. The lofty language that is immortalized in the United States Constitution and the Pledge of Allegiance promises all U.S. citizens the right to life, liberty, safety, happiness, and so forth. However, this promise has not always been kept for all U.S. citizens. The full recognition of one’s rights in the United States has depended on one’s race/ethnicity, gender, social class, religious beliefs, ability status, and so forth. Consequently, the United States has also denied, ostracized, and oppressed groups of people based on these same aforementioned identities (e.g., slavery, segregation, sexism, etc.). This resulted in amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the American Civil Rights Movement, and the Women’s Rights Movement, as well as others. These movements were no panacea; they simply weakened overt manifestations of bias, and allowed for more nuanced, covert, and/or institutionalized forms of bias. The elimination of overt bias also creates the illusion of success. People begin to think that the problems are solved because they are not obvious anymore. This highlights the need for diversity and multiculturalism in order to identify and expose covert bias and remind people that the struggles of the past are not just part of history; they undergird the problems we face today (e.g., achievement gaps, disproportionate discipline, and misidentification for special education). Ultimately, diversity/multiculturalism has the ability to provide a kind of interconnectedness among people by having them face the perplexing problems of equity, equality, social identity, and personal philosophy. Embracing and understanding diversity/multiculturalism is the key to unlocking its transformational power.

Article

Jennifer Hatten-Flisher and Rebecca A. Martusewicz

Ecofeminism is a theoretical, political, and educational movement that draws specific parallels between the domination of women and other marginalized groups, and the degradation of nature. While much of ecofeminist thought is focused on examining the interconnectivity between social and environmental injustices, ecofeminism is as vast and varied as its feminist and ecological roots. Yet, ecofeminism is not without its critics. After being widely accused of essentializing women’s relationship with nature, the term fell out of favor with a lot of scholars in the 1990s. Those who have remained loyal to the term have argued that this was an unfair mischaracterization of the larger foundational ideas within ecofeminist work. Given the global environmental and social crises currently sweeping the planet, ecofeminism offers important, albeit diverse, theoretical, practical, and pedagogical perspectives for developing effective responses to such interrelated crises. As such, scholars across a variety of disciplines are revisiting (and reclaiming) ecofeminist thought. In the field of education, ecofeminism is influencing the ways that we approach questions of justice by offering an intersectional framework that insists on recognizing the interconnected roots of racism, sexism, poverty, ablism, and other social problems with ecological degradation. An ethics of care is woven throughout to form the basis of a pedagogy of responsibility whereby students learn to both critique these cultural foundations of violence and identify practices and relationships that help to create healthy sustainable communities.

Article

This article explores the most effective approaches to reducing unintended pregnancies and improving girls’ education. Unintended adolescent pregnancies have gained substantial media attention across the globe over the past 20 years as the number of pregnant girls has increased annually. Multiple approaches have been implemented in attempt to reduce unintended adolescent pregnancies, such as sex education, the provision of contraceptives by the Department of Health, and addressing the role of young men, which are deemed to be the most commonly used approaches in South African schools. Study findings reveal that the most effective approaches to reducing adolescent pregnancies are sex education, access to contraceptives, peer education programs, and life skills training.

Article

Feminist theory rose in prominence in educational research during the 1980s and experienced a resurgence in popularity during the late 1990s−2010s. Standpoint epistemologies, intersectionality, and feminist poststructuralism are the most prevalent theories, but feminist researchers often work across feminist theoretical thought. Feminist qualitative research in education encompasses a myriad of methods and methodologies, but projects share a commitment to feminist ethics and theories. Among the commitments are the understanding that knowledge is situated in the subjectivities and lived experiences of both researcher and participants and research is deeply reflexive. Feminist theory informs both research questions and the methodology of a project in addition to serving as a foundation for analysis. The goals of feminist educational research include dismantling systems of oppression, highlighting gender-based disparities, and seeking new ways of constructing knowledge.

Article

Elizabeth J. Meyer

The field of bullying research initially paid minimal attention to the influences of gender role expectations (masculinity, femininity, and gender role conformity), as well as heteronormativity, cisnormativity, homophobia, and transphobia in understanding the phenomenon. This has shifted since the late 2000s, when more research emerged that analyzes gender as an influential factor for understanding bullying dynamics in schools. More recent studies have focused on LGBTQ youth, issues of disability, and racialized identities, as well as the impacts of online interactions. When examining gender and bullying, it is important to also examine related forms of gender-based violence, including sexual harassment, dating violence, and other forms of sexual and violent assault such as transphobic violence and murder. In order to more effectively support schools and professionals working to reduce bullying, there must be a deeper understanding of what is currently known about gender and bullying, what works to reduce it in schools, and what still needs more attention in the research literature.

Article

The unfolding of the term Indigenous is clustered within rich, powerful, diverse, decolonial, and hegemonic worldviews. Inhabiting more than 90 countries, the approximately 370 million Indigenous people on Planet Earth are wisdom carriers of traditional ancestral knowledge entwined with eco-spirituality. Powerful extractive institutional structures have ensured that Indigenous peoples have harvested historical legacies of domination, disruption, and disrespect. Indigenous women tend to live in the shadows, encountering invisibility, lack of voice, and stark inequality. International instruments such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, as well as a range of voluntary, private, and government-funded organizations and Indigenous communities, serve as catalysts to augmenting impactful liaisons and interventions in and through evocative educational pedagogy and practice. Gender and Indigenous diversity in education and practice distills narratives of voice and praxis to provoke, nudge, and prompt collective change.

Article

Bethy Leonardi and Sara Staley

Generations of education scholars have positioned issues that affect LGBTQ youth as critical to conversations about equity, diversity, democracy, and social justice in schools. Those voices, for generations, have been relegated to the periphery of those conversations at best and have been silenced at worst. Relatedly, university-based teacher education programs have been remiss in their attention to issues of gender and sexual diversity, systematically sending teachers into the field largely unprepared to create contexts that are safe for LGBTQ youth and to affirm gender and sexual diversity. With growing attention to issues that affect LGBTQ youth, both in educational research and practice as well as in the larger sociopolitical discourse, teachers are on the front lines. They are charged with navigating the complexities of students’ identities, the contexts in which they teach, local politics, and their own deeply held beliefs—and they are often, unsurprisingly, doing so with little or no support. That support needs to start much earlier. Teacher education programs—and teacher educators—are implicated as central in changing the discourse around what counts as (non)negotiable in learning to teach. By supporting preservice teachers’ learning around gender and sexual diversity, their processes toward that end, and their engagement in queer practices, teacher educators and teacher education programs can work toward paying down the debt owed to teachers in the field and to LGBTQ students and families who have long suffered the consequences of silence.

Article

Discussion of sex and/or gender in education has a long history, raising the difference gender makes and questioning also whether gender should make a difference and even how gender comes to be constituted in diverse ways. Many of the theorists and researchers working in these related areas examine role education plays in creating and exacerbating gender differences. They also note that when gender differences are highlighted by institutions, the resulting hierarchy of value tends to work to the advantage of male privilege and heterosexuality. Gender and sexuality difference are then used to stabilize and justify both sexism and heterosexism. This entry explores how the early philosophical theorizing that brought attention to the difference gender makes and the problems with gender-related hierarchy, setting the stage for later discussions of how and why schools need to challenge gender inequity. Exploring Anglo-American educational and related research, this entry distinguishes among theories that stress gender difference (e.g., arguing for women’s particular educational needs and strengths), theories that explore how gender differences are produced by institutions, how intersections of race challenge stable notions of what gender means, and finally, discussing how poststructural theories disrupt the normative gender binary, opening new possibilities for transgender students and other challenges to gender norms.

Article

Despite recently improved numbers of women and other historically underrepresented groups in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) in U.S. higher education, women continue to lag significantly in comparison with men in many STEM disciplines. Female participation is especially low in computer science, engineering, and physics and at the advanced levels in academic STEM—at full professor and in administrative (department head or chair, dean) positions. While there have been various theoretical approaches to explain why this gender gap persists, a particularly productive strand of research indicates that deeply rooted gendered, racialized, and heteronormative institutional structures and practices act as barriers to a more significant movement of diverse women into academic STEM fields. More specifically, this research documents that a hostile academic climate, exclusionary practices, and subtle forms of discrimination in hiring and promotion, as well as lack of positive recognition of female scientists’ work, account for relatively low numbers of women in fields such as engineering, physics, and computer science. Nevertheless, since the early 2000s, numerous initiatives have been undertaken in U.S. higher education to remedy the situation, and some progress has been made through programs that attempt to transform STEM departments and colleges into more inclusive and equitable academic spaces.

Article

Heather Greenhalgh-Spencer

This article defines and analyses multiple theoretical frameworks which have been developed in order to explain the interactions of gender and digital technology in schooling. Specifically, this article addresses: science and technology studies (STS) and education, technofeminism and education, post-humanism and education, and liberal rights framings of gender and technology. These frameworks offer a key backdrop to the sites of several educational policy and pedagogical conflicts that have recently arisen around gender, technology, and education. These frameworks are explained in ways that foregrounds there connections to schooling debates around: cyberbullying, speech rights, activism, embodiment, queer pedagogies, and digital divides.

Article

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article. Significant research telling the stories of women’s experiences in the superintendency has been conducted only since the 1980s. Much of that research has been focused on white women, with fewer studies of women leaders of color. By the beginning of the new century, there were more women in the pipeline for the superintendency—more women in graduate educational leadership programs, more women in the elementary principalship, and more women in central office positions. Data from the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) 2015 Study of the American Superintendent show that while increases have been made throughout the years, females make up only 27 percent of the superintendency, up only 2 percent from 2010. This stands in direct contrast to the female-dominated teaching force. Given that the position of teacher is the first step in the pathway toward the superintendency, women are clearly underrepresented as superintendents across the country. This problem has been a topic for many researchers, practicing academics, and doctoral students who choose the topic as research for dissertations.

Article

The topic of gender differences in reading, writing, and language development has long been of interest to parents, educators, and public-policy makers. While some researchers have claimed that gender differences in verbal and language abilities are disappearing, careful evaluation of the scientific research shows otherwise. Examination of nationally representative samples of educational achievement data show that there are moderately sized gender differences in reading achievement favoring girls and women (d = −0.19 to −0.44 across age groups), and substantially larger gender differences in writing (d = −0.42 to −0.62), spelling (d = −0.39 to −0.50), and grammar (d = −0.39 to −0.42). Explanations for observed gender differences in verbal and language abilities suggest a complex network of biological, social, and cultural forces rather than any single factor.

Article

Bic Ngo, Nimo Abdi, and Diana Chandara

Education research has long highlighted gender disparities in the academic achievement of women and men. At the dawn of the 20th century, men attained higher levels of education than women. By the 21st century, women from all racial groups achieved higher levels of education than men. Likewise, among the children of post-1965 “new immigrants,” female students have higher levels of educational attainment than male students. While gender has remained important as a domain of analysis for understanding disparities in education, analyses of the significance of gender in the education of immigrant children have focused primarily on differences in gender norms and expectations of immigrant groups from those of dominant culture in the United States. Such an emphasis disregards the social, cultural, and political dynamics of acculturation and adaptation where gender is shaped by the ethnic family, race and racialization, and religion, among other things. The “caring,” translational work that Mexican American girls do for parents, the racialized gender construction of Southeast Asian American male students as Other (not male), and the Islamophobia faced by Somali American female students wearing hijabs make salient family obligations, race, and religious identity, respectively, in the educational experiences and outcomes of female and male immigrant students. Considerations of gender in the education of immigrant children in the United States necessitate an intersectional analysis that puts gender in conversation with social factors and institutions.