University of Oulu

Gendered structures and processes in primary teacher education : challenge for gender-sensitive pedagogy

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Author: Sunnari, Vappu1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Education, Department of Teacher Education Oulu
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.2 MB)
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Language: English
Published: 1997
Publish Date: 1998-02-04
Thesis type: Doctoral Dissertation
Defence Note: Doctoral thesis to be presented publicly at the University of Oulu, Linnanmaa, Hall HU 106, on June 18, 1997 at 12 noon by permission of the Faculty of Education, University of Oulu, Finland.


My aim was to study gendered structures and processes and the challenges arising from them in primary teacher education. The topic was studied from structural and from agency-based and processual perspectives. The special tools used in the analyses consisted of culturally produced differences and asymmetry and the symbolic meanings given to them.

The study included historical and contemporary parts. The historical part of the study acquired its focus through the structures of the first Finnish Teacher Seminar and through three annual curricula of primary teacher education in Oulu. Data for the contemporary analyses were collected during a pedagogic development project carried out at the Oulu Department of Teacher Education in the years 1988–1996

The most visible components of the gender system identifiable in the structures of the first Finnish Teacher Seminar were the following:

– different aims for personal growth

– sex- and grade-based division of prospective teachers: female teachers for girls of all ages and small boys, male teachers for boys aged 10 or more

– differences in study subjects; especially in physical education, handicraft and pedagog

– everyday chores and pedagogical tasks of the student

– moral code and normative control

– different enrolment requirements

The sex-related differences in the first curriculum of the Oulu College of Teacher Education were surprisingly similar to the differences seen in the first Finnish Teacher Seminar. The academic curricula proved to be ostensibly gender-neutral. But the research findings showed, in accordance with several other research findings, that formal neutrality does not eliminate institutionalised gendered features or gendered perspectives for personal and/or professional development. On the basis of the findings, the following aspects of the gender system and gender contracts in contemporary primary teacher education in Oulu could be identified:

– Almost without exception, the students qualifying in the education of the first two forms were female.

– Female students qualified in various subjects taught in primary school while male students rather tended to acquire their qualifications according to a more personal orientation. Their special qualifications were mostly physical education and technical work.

– There was a tendency among the student teachers to notice boys differently from girls and to experience boys as more challenging, and to

– interpret pupils’ school achievements in sex-related ways. This tendency was also shared by the pupils.

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Series: Femina Borealis
ISBN: 951-42-4698-5
ISBN Print: 951-42-4604-7
Issue: 4
Copyright information: © University of Oulu, 1997. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.