Bias in the classroom: secondary choral educators' constructions of gender
East, Mary Ann
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In this study, I examined constructions of gender held by high school choral directors through four qualitative case studies, to see what, if any, gender biases were held by the directors and how, if at all, these biases affected their classroom behavior. The participants included two men and two women, each in different stages of their teaching careers, ranging from three years to over 30 years and nearing retirement. I conducted interviews to gather information about each director’s background and experience. I then observed each director working with a mixed ensemble and a single-sex ensemble. After directors had an opportunity to review transcripts from interviews and observations, I conducted exit interviews. The data revealed several themes around power, male dominance, and gendered language. I found that all of the directors displayed forms of gendered language and stereotypical masculinity in interactions with their choirs. For example, the directors felt they needed to connect with boys in their program through the use of sports analogies. One director in particular displayed blatant male-dominant attitudes in his treatment of his women’s choir, and all directors faced challenges of recruitment due to the effects that school scheduling structures had on their programs. Analysis of the data suggested that choral directors’ constructions of gender, whether conscious or unconscious, influenced decisions regarding repertoire, teaching strategies, and language used in the rehearsal room. If teachers have a better understanding of the ways their own constructions of gender may affect student learning, they will be better equipped to modify their teaching to promote a more affirming learning environment.