Gender equity in social studies courses: an analysis of teachers' understandings, curriculum, and classroom practices
Stevens, Kaylene Mae
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Gender inequity and inequality in the United States are persistent problems. Schools, as agents of socialization, can serve as mechanisms to reduce inequities. Yet, despite attempts at reform, there is little evidence of change. The high school social studies classroom is an important space because it is a place where students learn cultural norms and develop representations of various groups. Yet, the literature shows a significant underrepresentation of women in the social studies classroom (Crocco, 2008; Noddings, 1992; Schmeichel, 2011). This lack of representation could contribute to the persistence of inequality or, at the very least, maintain the status quo. Thus, understanding how children learn about women in the social studies classroom is important in creating gender equity in the United States. However, there is scant research on the role of the social studies teacher in the gender socialization of students. Gender bias is still a prevalent problem in many American classrooms (Sadker & Sadker, 2010). Evidence suggests that teacher beliefs might play an important role in what students learn (Pajares, 1992). The results of this study provide insight into how feminist teachers’ beliefs about gender inequity might influence their teaching practices, specifically their curriculum and their classroom practices. I studied six high school history teachers who had been identified to promote gender equity in their classrooms. Data from the teachers was collected and analyzed through interviews and observations to determine the relationship between teachers’ beliefs about gender equity and their teaching practices. These teachers had specific commonalities in classroom discourse, curricular modifications, and professional practices. The role of advocacy of teacher advocacy for equity was also examined, along with the current barriers for gender-equitable teaching, as voiced by the participants.