Gender stereotyping in the teaching and learning of physical sciences.
Nsuntsha, Bonginkosi Sanele.
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The purpose of this research was to explore Physical Sciences teachers’ views and experiences of gender stereotypes in the teaching and learning of sciences, and how such experiences shaped their beliefs and actions, in relation to gender in science education. The research answered three critical research questions: What are Physical Science teachers’ experiences of gender stereotyping/ discrimination? What are Physical Science teachers’ views of gender stereotypes and teaching? How do Physical Science teachers’ experiences of gender stereotyping shape their professional lives and beliefs? The study is qualitative in nature and is located within an interpretive paradigm. Purposive sampling was employed by interviewing three females and three male teachers who were at the time teaching Physical Sciences to grades 10, 11 and 12. The participating teachers had more than ten years of teaching experience. Semi-structured interviews were used for data collection. The study draws from the social learning theory in seeking to understand the teachers’ views and experiences. Findings of study reveal that the participating Physical Sciences teachers understood gender stereotyping, and that they had experienced it in their personal and professional lives. Furthermore, the findings suggest that teachers believed that gender stereotypes were much stronger in subjects such as Mathematics, Physical Sciences, Engineering compared to other fields. Discrimination amongst learners based on cultural norms, beliefs, and practices were viewed as the main sources gender stereotypes in the teaching and learning in schools in general. Findings of the study also revealed that girl learners are still discriminated against in schools and in their families. Physical science teachers were identified as the main perpetrators of gender discrimination in science classrooms by ignoring girls, and/or giving boys undue attention, among other things. This discrimination in the learning environment was reported to have a negative impact on girls’ learning experiences. Teachers indicated that some girls internalized their subordination and became silent when boys dominated them during practical experiments in the laboratory. Teachers reported that this might contribute to girls dropping out of Physical Sciences as a subject. However, teachers also reported that there were girls who continued to excel in Physical Sciences, despite the fact they were fewer in numbers compared to boys, and in spite of the sometimes harsh classroom and laboratory environments. The study points to the need to ii sensitise and educate Physical Sciences teachers about issues of gender discrimination and stereotyping in Physical Sciences classrooms. The study recommends that teacher professional development programs must incorporate gender issues, and that pre-service training of Physical Sciences teachers must also address gender issues. It also recommends a focus on strategies to attract more girls to study Physical Sciences, and for teachers to use collaborative and gender inclusive teaching strategies where girls and boys interact and work together. Classroom materials used must also be gender inclusive.