Evaluate and reflect upon practice in early years settings in supporting children’s social development Gender
This rationale will discuss the issues around gender and whether or not as parents, teachers or practitioners we influence children into their gender identity or whether it is inherent within our genetic makeup. I will be evaluating the complexities of my role as a practitioner in supporting children’s social development and reflecting upon how I could improve and modify my practice. There are differing views when it comes to defining gender. Some use gender to focus on biological differences such as sex, physical differences or hormones (Guarian 2002: 20). Others refer to ‘gender’ as the social constructions of masculinity and femininity (ATL 2004: 9 and Francis et al 2005: 73) meaning boys’ and girls’ behaviours and attitudes, which are not necessarily fixed by their biological make up. There is therefore a need to realise that ‘gender’ can be and often is regularly an interchangeable term that can be suited to both of these definitions. Kohlberg (1966) in (Harris and Butterworth 2002) suggests that there are three stages of gender identity beginning around the age of two to three years. The first stage is Gender Identity, where children become aware of sex. A child will say ‘I am a boy’ for example but not necessarily know what being a boy means. The second stage is Gender Stability which happens around the ages of three and a half to four and a half years old. In this stage children will develop awareness and understanding of the durability of their own gender and of others, this is generally focused on the physical appearance and a child may think that a person who dresses in typically opposite gender clothing has also changed sex (Emmerich et al 1977 in Harris and Butterworth 2002). The third of Kohlberg’s stages is Gender Consistency. This usually happens around the age of four and a half and upwards and this is when children begin to realise that regardless of their appearance people remain male or female. When looking at gender within education, there is a need to consider what effect it has on a child’s achievement. The DfES (2007: 1) states that there is a gender gap within English, Maths and Science from Foundation Stage through to Key Stage Three, where girls are outperforming boys. The attention on gender and children’s achievement has been present both within the media and schools for many years. Recently this emphasis has been geared towards the underachievement of boys. Siraj-Blactchford (2001: 72) in (Sharp et al 2006) states:
Recently we have heard a good deal in education debates about (working class)
boys’ underachievement. The results from the school league- tables suggest some
boys do underachieve in basic literacy.
This is portrayed by the media as ‘failing’ and suggests that girls are outperforming boys in education. It may not necessarily be that boys have a low achievement rate, rather it could be that they are simply not yet reaching their full potential (Warrington et al 2006: 39). I feel therefore the media has over inflated the idea that boys are underachieving. Instead of focusing on the failure, the emphasis on underachievement here should be looking at which boys (or girls) are not reaching their full potential. From my experience I have seen that teachers and practitioners also act in ways that maintain and maybe even extend the gender roles that are taught at home. It seems they often emphasise gender distinction with labelling that promotes gender stereotyping. It seems that boys do get more attention than girls, whether it is good or bad, as teachers generally seem to think that because a girl is quiet they do not need their attention. Francis et al (2005: 92) reiterates the idea that boys’ underachievement is due to feminisation and female teachers however within my setting there are five male teachers and two male teaching assistants. I feel that this has...
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