Classroom interaction is another important element in the pedagogical process. Learners are not little robots; they are also boys and girls with gender speciﬁc needs. Especially as they mature, their gender roles and relations (and often sex roles and relationships) have an increasing impact on classroom interactions. The teacher must recognise that this is where such matters as sexual experimentation, sexual harassment, male domination and female passivity come into play. It is therefore important for the teacher to create and enforce a conducive learning environment through classroom interaction that is gender responsive, age speciﬁc and respectful.
Reconsidering Classroom Dynamics
There are many dynamics in classroom interaction that have an impact on teaching and learning processes. Among these are the following:
- Content delivery by the teacher (competence, mastery, knowledge of the subject, innovation).
- Teacher – learner interaction
- Learner – learner interaction
- Teacher presentation (dress, physical appearance, gestures, walking style)
- Pupil presentation (uniform, physical appearance, walking/sitting style, gestures)
- Pupil behaviour (bullying, arrogance, shyness or timid, teasing)
- Teacher behaviour (harshness/empathy, arrogance/ conﬁdence, lateness/
punctuality, drunkenness/ modesty)
- Teacher and pupil morale (commitment, motivation).
All these dynamics are critical to the success or failure of teaching and learning processes. They are especially important in considerations of gender responsive classroom interaction.
Content Delivery by the Teacher
By this stage, the teacher has already prepared a gender responsive lesson plan (Unit 4), has reviewed teaching and learning materials for gender responsiveness (and is aware of gender responsive language (Unit 6). The classroom set up has been organized to be more gender responsive (Unit 7). What is now required is to deliver the subject content in a gender responsive manner.
The following are some of the common teaching methodologies used:
- Participatory methods
- Role play
- Expository methods
- Story telling
- Use of resource persons
As noted earlier, however, these methods are not necessarily gender responsive in and of themselves. So, how does the teacher make such teaching methodologies gender responsive? Below are suggested steps a teacher needs to follow ;
A teacher’s personal appearance and mannerisms have a major impact on the teaching and learning processes. The teacher who is too shabbily or too ﬂashily dressed, unkempt or untidy, tired, bored and uninterested, or provocative in manner is not likely to be a good role model. Similarly a teacher who comes to class drunk lose learners’ conﬁdence, trust and respect, and such a condition may lead to acts of sexual harassment. The learning outcomes are apt to be negatively affected.
Just as poor teacher presentation interferes with learning, so does poor presentation on the part of learners. Evidence of poor presentation includes: uninspired walking, untidiness, absentmindedness, and signs of dejection. Some learners will display arrogance or destructive behaviour, and others may adopt sexually provocative dressing, walking and sitting styles. The teacher should take this into account and take note of the signals being sent out by such learners.
Each girl and boy brings to the classroom a different set of personality traits, learning abilities, histories and dreams. Recognising the learners’ individuality will be useful in accomplishing gender responsive classroom relationships. By taking time to understand learners as boys and girls with diverse differences, teachers can be better placed to give thoughtful attention to learners’ work. This is an essential step towards classroom rapport and includes focus on the outlined below:
Addressing speciﬁc needs of learners
Look for such characteristics as shyness, arrogance, distraction and lack of conﬁdence. Take into account that some learners are slow; some are gifted and most are better in some areas than others. But it is necessary to go beyond academic ability. Bear in mind that some learners come from disadvantaged situations e.g orphans, displaced, HIV/AIDS affected and infected and the very poor.
- : Watch out for the gender speciﬁc needs of learners: for example girls who are having problems because they are going through their menstrual cycle, boys who are embarrassed to speak out in class because their voices crack, girls who are afraid of speaking out because of their cultural background and girls and boys alike who may have been sexually abused or molested. As a teacher, ensure you handle such cases
- : Feedback: Classroom interaction is a two-way process involving the teacher and the The teacher teaches and the learner is expected to respond. It is important for the teacher to ensure that the learners are learning. A teacher should therefore endeavour to create an environment where he/she can receive feedback from the pupils to conﬁrm that learning is taking place. The teacher should encourage – and be willing to accept – feedback from the pupils in order to improve the teaching and learning process. If the teacher is male, it may be particularly difﬁcult for girls to give feedback, as they may be socialised not to ask a man questions or answer back. The teachers need to help the learners to recognise that it is normal not to understand concepts at times and that therefore it is important for them to ask questions.
Classroom participation can be enhanced by ensuring that both girls and boys answer questions. Allow the pupils enough time to answer or ask questions and do not interrupt them mid-way. This implies the development and practice of patience and good listening skills. Such skills are especially important when dealing with female learners who may need more time to express themselves, as they may not be used to speaking out in public. Owing to the socialisation processes, girls tend to be more vulnerable targets to things like religious fanatism and mass hysteria; boys on the other hand tend to be targets for gangs, alcoholism and drug abuse. For girls, apart from its other negative impacts, alcohol and drug abuse can lead to other terrible consequences such as rape and early pregnancy. For both boys and girls, HIV infection is often associated with the sort of unplanned sexual encounters that may arise with alcohol and drug abuse. The teacher needs to be able to identify the signs of deviant or anti-social behaviour in order to take preventive action. The school also needs to have an early warning system for these issues and address them before they rise to unmanageable proportions.
Establishing rapport with learners:
Learning is more likely to take place in a harmonious classroom, with good rapport between teacher and his/her pupils and among pupils. Establishing rapport between male teachers and female pupils can sometimes be a tricky issue, however. The socialization process generally maintains a distance between males and females. Professional conduct demands that such distance be respected. To avoid being misunderstood, some teachers therefore assume a demeanour of detachment even in classroom interaction; carried to an extreme, this can be negative to the academic performance of both boys and girls. On the other hand, teachers have been known to break the trust inherent in their position, as evidenced by the many reported cases of sexual harassment of pupils by teachers and sometimes teachers impregnating some girls at school.
It is often necessary for teachers to make a deliberate and conscious effort to strike a balance between being overly-aloof and overly-friendly in order to build and nurture the rapport necessary for effective teaching and learning to take place.
Gender-based distractions in the classroom
Negative gender based behaviour by both the teacher and pupils can be distractive to the teaching and learning process. The examples are numerous – boys bullying girls, bigger learners both boys and girls bullying smaller ones, teasing, abusive language and gestures, sexual advances, touching , passing notes, unkind/ embarrassing grafﬁti on classroom walls and pit latrines. In such situations, a teacher needs to ﬁnd ways of making his/her classroom interaction conducive to learning by eliminating such kinds of behaviour.
Anti-social and unusual behaviour:
Classroom dynamics are also affected by forces arising outside the classroom, including drug abuse, alcoholism, domestic violence, lesbianism/homosexuality, religious fanatism, demonic practices, witchcraft and similar unusual behaviour among others. All these issues can have a negative impact on the teaching and learning processes. A teacher therefore, should be aware that some of his/her pupils are affected by these issues.
In the box below are suggested activities you can use to handle this unit with the learners in your school
How to Make Teaching Methodologies Gender Responsive
In the teaching profession, teachers employ different methodologies in the teaching learning processes. However, as a teacher you need to make these methods gender responsive to ensure equal learning takes place.
In the table below are suggested actions you can take to make your methodologies gender responsive.
Reﬂection Point: Now that you know about gender issues, what are you going to do differently to make your teaching methods gender responsive for equal learning to take place in your school?