This book investigates gender differences in attitudes and classroom practice between male and female student teachers in the Republic of Ireland. It argues that although gender equality in educational policies, fuelled by an evolving gender-conscious Irish society, has become increasingly important, students may continue to operate within the legacy of a patriarchal society still struggling to shake off the vestiges of polarised conventional expectations. While considerable work has been done on gender among teachers and pupils, this book makes its contribution by concentrating on students in initial teacher education who are the very pulse of our future hope for the next generation. Those vital years of study are not to be treated scantly in the education of teachers. If they leave their institutes of education or their universities with unspoken assumptions or biases of any kind they are less likely to shake them off as they move forward in their professional lives.
The research is an expression of concern as to what extent the students are likely to have been influenced by the gender biases resident in their background and their educational and social milieu. Where such is the case contradictions and tensions are likely to result in affinities, antipathies, beliefs and values that are of a gender dichotomous nature in turn adversely affecting their approaches to teaching and learning. Both quantitative and qualitative research methods were employed to validate findings which identified a significant number of gender differentials between the students. These portrayed the complex world of the unexpected eventualities of classroom conversations and interactions. It was stated, however, that while gender difference is not by any means to be recognised as necessarily always having negative connotations, there are numerous indications in the research to the contrary.
Caroline Renehan is Head of Religious Studies at St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, Dublin.