Teacher Perceptions of Gender-Based Differences among Elementary School Teachers*

Article excerpt

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine teacher perceptions of gender-based differences among elementary school teachers. In this mixed-methods study, the researcher utilized an online survey to collect data. Quantitative analysis revealed no statistically significant differences; however, qualitative analysis showed that there were more negative responses to survey statements pertaining to males. More than half of the participants perceived differences between female and male elementary teachers, including beliefs that female teachers are more nurturing, that male teachers are more laid back, and that male teachers are more dominant and commanding with students. Four conclusions were drawn: elementary teachers perceive differences between female and male teachers, male elementary teachers are perceived more negatively than female colleagues, a vast majority of participants feel that more male elementary teachers are needed in the elementary schools, and differences between female and male elementary teachers remain unclear.

Keywords: Teacher Gender, Differences, Elementary Education, Perceptions, Male Teacher

Introduction

Gender differences provide content for discussion in a variety of media including movies, television, books, magazines, and research; however, differences between female and male elementary teachers have not been fully researched and analyzed. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, women outnumber men in the teaching profession by approximately three to one (2006). In 2001, the National Education Association reported that only 9% of America's elementary school teachers were men. More than a decade later, the situation has improved little; for example, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (as cited by the Men Teach organization) reported that 18.8% of elementary and middle school teachers in America were men. Jones (2003) cites female teachers' concerns about the comparatively low number of men in the teaching profession and their hope of having more male elementary colleagues to offset the disproportionate number of female teachers. One might conclude that this deficit would result in an unacceptable balance in elementary teacher gender demographics.

The lack of balance could lead to a difference in perceptions about female and male teachers. In addition, this lack of balance could be caused by a difference in perceptions. This research study uses a phenomenological approach, which Glesne (2006) defines as the description of an individual's consciousness and experience of a phenomenon. Phenomenological research analyzes the research participants' thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions; for example, this study has gathered qualitative and quantitative data regarding female and male elementary teachers' perceptions of their colleagues. The purpose of this research was to examine the perceptions of teachers related to gender differences in elementary teachers. The data from this research may underscore the need to increase the male teacher population at the elementary school level. Educators may also use this data to improve teacher education programs and professional development.

The main research question was: What are teacher perceptions of gender-based differences among elementary teachers? For the purpose of this study, the researcher will examine the issue by grouping previous literature into three domains: Teacher as Self, Teacher to Student, and Teacher to Teacher. It is through these domains that the researcher implemented his own study.

Teacher as self

In the Teacher as Self domain, literature was analyzed that discussed teachers' classroom management style. Previous research was also analyzed that focused on teachers' content knowledge and instructional effectiveness.

Regarding classroom management, Chudgar and Sankar (2008) noted that male teachers were more focused on maintaining classroom authority by enforcing strict discipline. …