Investigating Gender: Contemporary Perspectives in Education

By Becky Francis; Christine Skelton | Go to book overview

1
Gender theory and
research in education:
modernist traditions
and emerging
contemporary themes

Jo-Anne Dillabough


Introduction

This chapter explores theoretical developments in the study of gender in education. Its primary purpose is to examine such developments over the last two decades, with a particular concentration on the most recent trends in the field. As one element of this task, I also consider some of the changes and continuities which have marked feminist thought and its application to the study of gender in education. In so doing, I argue that gender research in education has moved away from its initial concern with gender socialization patterns, the reproduction of gender inequality in schools and gender equity reforms towards an engagement with social and cultural theory and its analysis of the contested nature of gender identities in schools.

In tracking gender research in education over time, I focus on contemporary gender theory not because it presents a complete picture of feminist educational research or all of its contending positions, but because it characteristically displays, like other fields of humanities research, theoretical conflicts which are apparent in the broader sphere of contemporary social theory. Without an understanding of the relationship between theoretical conflicts in social theory and education as a domain of study, the development of gender analyses in education will remain elusive. It is with the elucidation of this relationship that this chapter is concerned.

I begin with an informal historical sketch of gender research in education followed by a brief reflection on the impetus behind the theoretical shifts in

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