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'Don't you perceive gender as different because of the chromosomes': Examining the Impact of Gender Discourses on Early Childhood Pre-Service Teachers?

This thesis is a qualitative study located within the context of contemporary New Zealand early childhood education. It investigates the impact and implications on pedagogy resulting from the gender discourses held by pre-service early childhood teachers, each of whom had just begun the final semester of the 3rd year of their Bachelor of teaching early childhood education. Specifically, using data generated through focus groups, it investigates the participant’s location and framing of gender, gender development and the participant’s understandings of gender diversity. The research, which extensively used post-structural feminism and Foucault’s notion of discourse as a theoretical framework, identified the participant’s discourses around gender which were conflicting, uncontested and confused. A series of influential discourses regarding gender were identified as potentially shaping pre-service teachers developing teacher subjectivity. I claim that the shaping of teacher subject, who are indifferent to gender, results, from a reduction of focus on gender in the early childhood sector in both professional practice and state policy. The increased dominance of the biological determinist discourse in lay society is keenly felt in these domains. The increased biologically determinist view inferring that gender difference is natural and therefore unchallengeable and the reduced focus on gender in professional and government fields decreases the importance placed on gender. As such, this thesis suggests that the importance placed on gender by the developing teacher subject may be inconsistent with the important role gender plays in the early years and may therefore inhibit pedagogy and practice. This research has implications for policy and teacher education. The results identify early childhood teacher education as being in a unique position to attempt to mitigate such issues. Specifically this can be done by supporting the development of the reflexive skills needed for pre-service teachers to consider and challenge the gender discourses that influence them.
Type of thesis
Lyall, M. V. (2013). ‘Don’t you perceive gender as different because of the chromosomes’: Examining the Impact of Gender Discourses on Early Childhood Pre-Service Teachers? (Thesis, Master of Education (MEd)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/8467
University of Waikato
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