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Gender issues: Who is the better teacher?

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Education
Wordcount: 2283 words Published: 11th May 2017

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Gender has long been the issue in classroom for over decades. The question of who is a better teacher – male of female has always been debated for years. Although this issue has dissipates following the issue of sexism and gender equity, it still knocks on the door of every classroom. Does a teacher’s gender affect student performance in the classroom? Does student performance increases when taught by teacher of the same sex, or is it the opposite? Many researches have been done in trying to answer these questions, but no definite conclusion has been made. Most of the researchers are still trying to figure out what actually constitutes to the students’ achievement in relation to teachers’ gender.

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There are two views when it comes to the influence of teachers’ gender effect in classroom, one accepts it and another one denies it. The first one says when students are taught by the teacher of the same sex as the students, the students’ achievement will increase. Some researchers are saying that students will perform better when taught by the same gender, as they feel more engaged and are able to identify themselves with the teacher because of the same gender factor. Gender role model, stereotypes, expectations, and teaching styles are some of the variables that are brought up when it comes to same-gender factor.

Still, there are people who believe that teachers’ gender effect does not have any influence in students’ academic achievements. They believed that there is no ample evidence to support such notion, and even if there was, it was not sufficient and significant enough to be accepted as a sole reason for such occurrence.

Although many researches had been made, there are still loopholes that need to be filled and studied. Inconsistent findings and conclusions given by previous researchers is one reason why further studies are needed. Some shortcomings and limitation from previous research are also need to be rectified.

There are several elements that indirectly influence the teachers’ gender effect in classroom. Factors such as students’ perception towards teacher’s performance and effectiveness in class, and teacher’s level of interaction are some that will be touched in the article review. All of these elements will be reviewed in terms of gender differences.

Because the literature on teacher’s gender issues is so broad, this review of literature begins by examining theories of gender role development and social learning theories. Next, gender role expectations and the stereotypical male and female student will be examined. This information will then be brought together with research specific to the classroom experience involving student and teacher interactions and research specific to teacher training.


Effective teachers are those who achieve the goals which they set for themselves or which they have set for them by others (e.g ministries of education, legislators and other government officials, school administrators). As a consequence, those who study and attempt to improve teachers’ effectiveness must be cognizant of the goals imposed on teachers or the goals that teachers establish for themselves, or both.

According to Kemp and Hall (1992), the major research finding is that student achievement is related to teacher competence in teaching. Differential teacher effectiveness is a strong determinant of differences in student learning, far outweighing the effects of differences in class size and class heterogeneity (Darling-Hammond, 2000)

According to Sanders and Rivers (1996), students who are assigned to one ineffective teacher after another have significantly lower achievement and learning (that is, gains in achievement) than those who are assigned to a sequence of several highly effective teachers.

It is important to note however, that the influence of teacher characteristics on teacher effectiveness is not direct; rather it is moderated or mediated by their effect on the way in which teachers organize their classrooms and operate within them. In Bloom’s (1972) terns, what teachers are influences what teachers do; what teachers do, in turn, influences what and how much students learn.

When asked about their most effective teachers, boys and girls were able to identify a solid list of key characteristics reflected in educational research (Hill & Rowe, 1996; Martin, 2002).

In Ashley & Lee (2003) boys tended consistently to identify the following factors as critical in the kinds of teacher they work well for and respect:

• Firm, but fair: able to control the class well – to inject humour but regain attention quickly

• Good subject knowledge and enthusiasm for the subject

• The ability to explain things clearly and with patience

Fazio and Roskes (1994), said, “attitudes are important to educational psychology because they strongly influence social thought, the way an individual thinks about and process social information”. According to Eggen and Kauchak (2001), positive teachers’ attitudes are fundamental to effective teaching. A teacher must be interesting. Eggen and Kauchak (2001) identified a number of teachers’ attitudes that will facilitate a caring and supportive classroom environment. They are: enthusiasm, caring, firm, democratic practices to promote students responsibility, use time for lesson effectively, have established efficient routines, and interact freely with students and providing motivation for them.

According to Shulman (1987), poor communication can make learning even the most simple and straightforward subject-matter far more difficult.

Research findings on teachers’ attitudes (Brunning et al., 1999), established the following facts: Teachers characteristics such as personal teaching efficacy, modeling and enthusiasm, caring and high expectation promote learners’ motivation.

Male teachers tend to be more authoritative and instrumental whereas female teachers tend to be more supportive and expressive (Meece, 1987; Freeman & McElhinny, 1996).

Teachers variable are also noted to have effect on students’ academic performances. These includes, teachers’ knowledge of subject matter, teaching skills, attitude in the classroom, teachers, qualification and teaching experience. Ehindero and Ajibade (2000) asserted that, “students, who are curious stakeholders in educational enterprise, have long suspected and speculated that some of their teachers lack the necessary professional (not academic) qualification (that is, skills, techniques, strategies, temperament et cetera) required to communicate concepts, ideas principles et cetera in a way that would facilitate effective learning”.

According to Kelley Massoni (2004), students expect male teachers as being more knowledgeable than women, and are assumed to be more “objective”.


Sociologist Robert K. Merton (1948) first coined the term “self-fulfilling prophecy”. As part of his explanation of the SFP, Merton drew’ upon the idea: “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences” (Thomas, 1928, p. 257). Then, if students really think about their teachers, somehow it will materialized in both of the teacher’ and students’ teaching and learning process.

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SFP research (Good, 1987) explains that teachers form expectations of and assign labels to people based upon such characteristics as body build, gender, race, ethnicity, given name and/or surname, attractiveness, dialect, and socioeconomic level, among others. Once we label a person, it affects how we act and react toward that person. ‘With labels, we don’t have to get to know the person. We can just assume what the person is like” (Oakes, 1996, p. 11).

Although self-fulfilling prophecy usually works based on teacher’s expectation, students also form their own expectation, and could also have their own self-fulfilling prophecy, working both ways, onto them, and also towards the teacher’s teaching process. The self-fulfilling prophecy works two ways. Not only do teachers form expectations of students, but students form expectations of teachers – using the same characteristics described above (Hunsberger & Cavanagh, 1988).


Many studies reveal that students tend to rate female faculty members’ differently than male faculty members (Whitworth, Price & Randall. 2002; Basow & Silberg, 1987; Goodwin & Stevens, 1993; Tartro, 1995). Students may hold biased perceptions of the differences between men and women faculty (Andersen & Miller, 1997; Burns-Glover & Veith, 1995).

It is also possible, however, that students are accurately assessing the difference between teaching styles that is attributable to the gender of the faculty member (Centra & Gaubatz, 2000). According to Kelley Massoni (2004), the impact of gender in teaching evaluations often is related to students’ differing gendered expectations of their women and men teachers.

A study by Basow (1995) revealed that students perceived female instructors to be more sensitive and considerate of student ideas whereas male instructors were believed to be more knowledgeable. If students are, even in part, picking up on real differences, understanding the effect of gender on teaching styles is important.


Perception may be defined from physical, psychological and physiological perspectives. But for the purpose of this study, it shall be limited to its scope as postulated by Allport (1966), which is the way we judge or evaluate others. That is the way individuals evaluate people with whom they are familiar in everyday life. Eggen and Kauchak (2001) gave cognitive dimension of perception; they see perception as the process by which people attach meaning to experiences.


Teachers are more likely to offer praise and remediation in response to comments by boys but mere acknowledgement in response to comments by girls (AAUW 1992, Sadker and Sadker 1994, Saltzman 1994, Kleinfeld 1998, Lewin 1998, and Sommers 2000).

The only significant interaction that emerged was that girls reported a better relationship with female teachers than with male teachers, while boys reported fairly similar relationships (TES, 2005).

According to Holmlund and Sund (2005), teachers are the role models for the students. If students identify themselves more with same-sex role models, it is possible that performance will be enhanced when students have a teacher of their own gender.

Florian (2008) suggests that there is rich evidence within the psychology literature that girls and boys respond differently to mothers and fathers [e.g. Brown, 1990, Brown et al., 1986], and pick different celebrities and athletes to emulate. Male and female teachers are also potential role models.

Harris and Barnes (2009) found that four-year-old boys preferred males to form a relationship and saw the male teacher as the person to be involved in sports and physical games.

Teacher’s gender influences how that teacher interacts and communicates with his or her students (Constantinou, 2008). As Hurt, Scott and McCroskey (1978) have stated it, there is “a difference between knowing and teaching, and that difference is communication in the classroom” (p. 3).

According to Dee (2006), assignment to a same-gender teacher significantly improves the achievement of both girls and boys as well as teacher perceptions of student performance and student engagement with the teacher’s subject. He also found that, having a teacher of the same sex increased a student’s score on standardized tests significantly while having a teacher of the opposite sex decreased scores. But Florian (2008) finds that male students performing worse with female instructor, while female performance appear unaffected.

According to Dee (2006), in a class taught by a man, girls were more likely to say the subject was not useful for their future and they were less likely to look forward to the class or to ask questions.


Teachers may react in a different way depending on the gender of a student, or students may react in a different way depending on the gender of a teacher. Firstly, teachers discriminate, and display bias with respect to how they engage or assess boys and girls in the classroom. The mode teachers behave interacting with boys or girls may rely on whether teachers themselves are male or female. These effects may be conscious or unconscious. Secondly, students may see teachers more as role models if they are of the same sex, and show greater intellectual engagement, manner, and interest. Students may also react to teachers through negative stereotype – for example, when female students are reminded about a belief they are not supposed to be good at math when being taught by a male teacher. Another probability is that male and female students respond differently to male and female teaching styles. It is important for teacher to know what he/she is expected from the students. Fulfilling the expectation can make learning process easier for the students and make them more motivated.


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