Topic 3 The influence of teachers’ gender bias on students

Studies concerning gender gap in education, note that teachers’ gendered assumptions, expectations and practices can affect students’ attitude, limiting their participation in the classroom and their future educational and career.

The stereotypical profiles of male and female students that teachers draw, may oblige them to fit into certain categories and compromise with the gender roles that are rooted in society and discriminate against girls and boys, women and men.

The students that do not belong are the ones that suffer the most, as additional pressure is placed in them in order to behave according to type.

More specifically, students cannot express their thoughts, they begin to question themselves as their classroom experience contradicts with their personal identity, they are overwhelmed by feelings like shame or failure and hopelessness, and they never feel comfortable in school.

The gendered assumptions and eventually expectations that teachers have may lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy. This means that students internalise teachers’ perceptions and adjust their behaviour to meet teachers’ expectations.

In the end, the false and unsubstantiated assumptions become facts and empower the vice circle of gender stereotypes and gender bias.

The Anti-Fairytale of Gender Stereotyping

Students who perceive that their teacher attributes their achievement to effort or luck and not to ability-as it happens with girls- may question their self-worth and their capacity to achieve and become discouraged and disengaged. On the other hand, the attribution of achievement to natural ability that is usual for boys, may undermine their effort, make them overconfident and give them the sense of superiority over girls.

So, in the end teachers’ perceptions influence students’ perceptions, aspirations and motivations.

Gendered assumptions and expectations can also define the practices that teachers adopt. These practices eventually have a negative impact for all the students, either girls or boys, as they fail to uncover students’ real needs and instill them knowledge or values, useful for their future.

Exposure to biased teachers may also be an important channel for students’ future choices, concerning their studies and their profession.

Girls may be disadvantaged in later stages of their educational career, if they are only acknowledged for neatness, good behavior and effort. Moreover, they may follow professional paths that are aligned to their gender roles. Therefore, they chose professions that are considered feminine and close to their mother instincts e.g., teachers or they prefer masculine professions that are in accordance with the idea of offering services and looking after others e.g., doctor, nurse. 

In contrast, most boys prefer professions which require technical skills and therefore are perceived as masculine. They also care about money and social status.