Dr. AllysonJule


We transpose our stereotypes onto children

26 December 2012, 10:55 Download audio file

We transpose our stereotypes onto children - interview

The Voice of Russia spoke with Dr. Allyson Jule, an author, professor of education and the co-director of the Gender Studies Institute at Trinity Western University in Canada, about gender issues and education. Dr. Jule who recently completed a study on gender in the classroom, with a focus on the processes involved in linguistics education and how gender affects the attainment of language knowledge, shared her views and conclusions with the Voice of Russia. A must-listen for those involved in ESL education and teachers in general.

Hello, this is John Robles. I’m speaking with Dr. Allyson Jule. She’s a Professor of Education at Trinity Western University in British Columbia and the Co-Director of the Gender Studies Institute.

Robles: Hello Allyson! How are you this evening?

Jule: Hello! I’m fine. It is good to talk to you.

Robles: It is very nice to speak with you too. Thanks for agreeing to do the interview.

I’d like to hear a little bit about the study that you did regarding boys and girls in the classroom. How do they learn differently? How are boys and girls easier or more difficult to teach?

Jule: One of the things I was interested in exploring was that very question about the difference between boys and girls, particularly for teachers and how it would influence teaching methodology.

What I’ve discovered both through my own research and also through reviewing other empirical research studies was that the difference is so small when it comes to anything that neuroscience might suggest. But the differences are magnified by culture or our expectations, and our stereotypes that reinforce certain gender behavior. So, we think that girls are very talkative, let’s say, and we respond to them as such and talk more to them. And then, oh, they become more talkative. And then we say well, they are more talkative.

But it becomes a sort of self fulfilling prophesy for girls in that way, or for boys regarding sports or aggression, or math or other sorts of stereotypical masculine behaviors that culture suggests and reinforces.

And what I noticed in the study, that I did, this was with 7-year-old children and teachers responses to boys and girls in classroom discussions. I looked at full class discussion, full lessons with boys and girls in the classroom and the teachers were giving a teacher directed lesson, for example, talking about capital cities, let’s say, of the world. And when this teacher, for example, asked a question to anyone at all, a boy or a girl could answer this question: “What’s the capital city of Canada?” for example.

If a girl responded to the question: “Ottawa”, the teacher would say: “Yes”. If a boy answered that same question the same way: “Ottawa”, the teacher would say something more like: “Yes, Ottawa is the capital city of Canada. That’s right.”

What that was, was a small moment that the girl’s response was getting minimal linguistic response. It is getting affirmed: “Yes, Ottawa” but the boy’s response was getting more verbal interaction: “Yes, Ottawa is the capital city of Canada. That’s right.” Which was almost ten times more interaction which prompted more verbal interaction in response. So, there were chattier boys in response to a teacher prompting more conversation.

Robles: Doesn’t that have to do with the teacher then, I mean it doesn’t have to do with the student?

Jule: Exactly! I think it has everything to do with the teacher. And as a teacher educator this was my main interest: was how much power could a teacher have in reinforcing stereotypes or in interrupting stereotypes and therefore giving more opportunity for our children to be individuals, to exercise a wide variety of intelligences and a wide variety of skills and linguistic opportunities.

So, the part that I was interested in was this linguistic space. And that the girls tended to be silenced by the teacher, now, this wasn’t deliberate. And all the teachers I interviewed would say things like: “Oh, I treat them all the same” or “I give all the same opportunities to boys and girls”. And they absolutely believed that, and so did I. I think what was interesting when you do this kind of research, like measuring linguistic space, I tape recorded all the conversations, I counted the words, I compared the percentages throughout the whole year between class rooms etc.

Then we can see these patterns and see, “Oh that’s interesting!” because then teacher and even myself as researcher were not aware of this distinctive response until it was there on paper and you could see it.

So, the girls were also treated slightly in other sort of curious ways. And this wasn’t just in my own study. This was something I did find in researching other studies of a similar ilk that were done in the US and in England where the teacher would tend to say something like; “Girls!” But the boys would get direct names, like: “Peter, be quiet”, “Peter turn to your work” or whatever. But “Girls, hush!” there was a sense that girls were kind of en-mass in the room and they were nice quiet girls.

That was the kind of the affirmative stereotypical behavior. But the boys could be quite rowdy or engaging with the teacher, often not hear, but that seems to be considered a “boy” behavior and I think this gets reinforced. And this was with very young children 7-years-old. There are studies that came out through pre-school, kindergarten, 5-year-old children. And all that, that suggest a similar kind of phenomenon that is: we treat our children the way we want them to be, and then say, “Ah, that’s how they are.”

But we are not really that conscious that we have prompted these very behaviors, whether it is what we expect and hope for in little girls, or expect and hope for in little boys. And I found that very interesting, both as a teacher and as a parent myself, just that: how expectations can setup a whole life trajectory regarding things our children feel are confident to attempt to try, like sports for girls or math for girls, or English literature and reading for boys that somehow get a stereotypical bubble around it. And then we just keep to that and even complain about it, like should the boys read more, boys aren’t excelling at school the way we think they should and yet reading more to girls.

So, there is something in the teacher’s life in particular that I was interested in and what the teacher does in her or his class rooms that prompt a kind of gendered life.

Robles: After the study did you go back and maybe work on some of their problems and try to re-evaluate the teachers later? Did they try to change this behavior at all?

Jule: Yes and no. We definitely were in a conversation about it. They were very interested. They knew I was there doing gender work. So, they were very conscious, you’d think that they would have been even more careful, let’s say, in many ways. But I think for all of us this was a very subconscious kind of reaction. And I think that we don’t have any quick fixes. I think that my biggest frustration was some of the more popular literature right now that seems to suggest things like boys have boy brains and have to be taught in a certain way and then they will succeed, or girls have girl brains and they need certain things to succeed.

Robles: I’ve always believed that we have the same brain, but we are just programmed differently, to start out with really.

Jule: Yeah, or that our culture, or the world we live in responds to us through a gender lens and then it reinforces it. So that: yes, we are different but what I react to is this kind of essentialist biological “We’re different” instead of, a sense that everyone is an individual, there are a whole host of reasons why people are the way they are, the personality traits, the socio-economic status, families.

Robles: You were listening to an interview with Dr. Dr. Allyson Jule. She’s a Professor of Education at Trinity Western University in British Columbia and the Co-Director of the Gender Studies Institute.

Please visit our site in the near future for the rest of our talk with Dr. Jule.

Men and women: we need each other

27 December 2012, 16:44 Download audio file

Men and women: we need each other - interview

In the continuation of our conversation with Dr. Allyson Jule, Dr. Jule continues giving her insights into how gender affects learning and the discusses the stereo-types women and men have to deal with and fight against both as children and then later as adults. She speaks out against uni-sex classrooms and how they limit interaction, growth and proper human development.

Robles: As far as gender goes, I mean, as far as I know, pretty much the gender of the individual; this starts at 5 years old, 4 or 5, and you were talking about 7-year-olds. Usually at that point they’ve already been, pretty much, if you want to call it, programmed, that it is either a boy or a girl, and they are being pushed in that direction all the time.

Jule: With some of the studies we now have we can go in with MRIs and see some fetal development and incredible things that science can tell us but one of the main things is that the synapse patterns of the brain continue to function and develop their own pathways after birth and there is a gendered response at birth: it’s a boy, it’s a girl, or now with new technology you know if you are having a boy or a girl and that the gendered reaction happens before birth, in the rooms decorated in a certain way, certain clothes are purchased, the names chose etc,and then the response of the parents.

They have studies now, quite interesting studies of newborns and how parents hold the eye gaze of a boy child versus a girl child or how they speak to a boy or a girl baby, or handle the boy or a girl baby, bouncing the baby boy “bouncing baby boy”, or holding this beautiful baby girl. And so to say that gender emerges around the age of 7 we can probably no longer say that.

Robles: No, I mean, I was just saying it is already determined at that level. I think most studies say it’s set at 3 or 4

Jule: I’d say at 2.

Robles: You’d say by 2? I see.

Jule: I think I would go with as early as 2. When I walk through some of the toy stores here in Canada, I think: “Oh my goodness, there is probably nothing that could be purchased for child that is not gendered somehow.” Even the LEGO now comes in girl colors and boy colors.

Robles: Really?

Jule: I think it is a strange development in light of the more feminist ideas that are coming through the school system, there seems to be this backlash almost back to like a Victorian kind of view that boys have a very boy-life. They have certain things they do and certain games they play, and that that’s radically different from what girls do. I think that is very surprising.

Robles: I think here in Russia that is even worse, I mean, as far as the differences between boys and girls go. I mean boys are programmed pretty much: never to cry. Even in the classrooms. I mean when I first started teaching here myself, the first thing I noticed was: all the girls were sitting on one side of the room, all the boys were on the other, and I would do boy-girl, boy-girl, and at first they were kind of against that and then they started to like it and they started to talk to each other and started to interact really well.

Jule: What I am worried about particularly emerging in the States are these single-gendered classrooms that are happening in the public schools system, and there have always been schools for boys, schools for girls, in private schools often, but this is in a public system, so that of these, I would call them even pseudo-science kind of studies, that say that boys need certain methods and girls need certain methods, so guess what? We should put all the boys in one room and teach them math, and put all the girls in a different room and teach them math together and then they can learn in their different ways together, and I just think, “Holy Mackerel !”

Robles: What century is that?

Jule: Yes, it seems so popular and yet problematic and teachers themselves seem to be taking this on saying, yes, the boy’s class, we can focus on these sorts of things and the girl’s class we can focus on these sorts of things, but what it takes away, is what you are describing: when you have a variety, you can add a dynamic to the room.

That is really important in presenting our children with a more well-rounded sense of humanity. Which is we need each other: male and female in relationship, in business, in educating our children. To segregate and to reinforcement just seems to me a major step backwards.

Robles: Now you’ve taught around the world, you’ve been around the world. What about gender in classrooms and in education in general in different countries as far as methodologies go, as far as the approach, and the acceptance of, for example, women being achievers?

Jule: Yes, we do know that particularly in the West that girls have been outperforming boys for about 25-30 years and critics of education are saying: “Well that is because there has been a feminization of education that now privileges girls over boys”, girls are outperforming entering law schools.

Robles: So why aren’t women/girls, in all the top management posts and running things?

Jule: A study that came out to Harvard maybe 10 years now, that looked at some of the top educated women, some in the US, that would have emerged from Harvard law school around mid 1980s, so that they would have all of the benefits of new opportunities and affirmative action and whatever, that gave them best education in the world, and followed their career trajectories to see what happens throughout, like “Did they become then the heads of law firms around the world?”, as you would expect with that kind of education and preparation, but what they found is that of course they did not, they went part-time, some of them stayed home, some of them changed careers, calling it the opt-out generation because when they asked these very women: “Why with that kind of education and privilege did they not have gone out to do public service, run for president, or other, sort of levels of leadership”, their responses all aligned with this: “Well, it’s not what I wanted for my life. Like I wanted a family, or I wanted relationships, or I wanted a work-life balance. Which was just an interesting kind of set of things to consider because what we have been asking of men in our society? That they have to give up family, relationship, work-life balance to be those leaders. It is an interesting set of requirements for both genders. One would have to give up that kind of career to have those kinds of relationships, but then so does the other.

Robles: What kind of pressure do you think that puts on men? Do you think that is fair?

Jule: Tremendous pressure, and unfair, but I think that a well-lived-life includes some accomplishments, areas of interest, relationship, family, work-life balance. I think whether you are a male of a female, all of those things going to a well-rounded life are important, and to set up things that are gender-based that take away the other options, I think that is so sad and I get frustrated when I hear, educators in particular, come on strong with this: “Boys need this and they need this kind of life and that is the kind of life they are going to live”, and I think: “Why limit?”


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