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Promoting Equity and Equality in Education through Gender Responsive Teaching




Name 1

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Promoting Equality in African Schools (PEAS) is an international charity organization

that is working to increase access to education for children in Uganda and Zambia and plans to

implement a network of high-quality, sustainable secondary schools throughout Africa. PEAS

was developed in 2005 and now has 21 schools in Uganda and 2 in Zambia, all of which serve

children from poor socioeconomic regions (PEAS, 2012). One of the challenges the organization

faces is how to address the gap in achievement between girls and boys. Though there may be

many reasons for this gap, the NGO representative, Libby Hills, asked for assistance in

developing research centered on gender-responsiveness in teaching. Our team conducted broad

research on this topic and focused on three major themes: communication, classroom

environment and dynamics, and instructional strategies. We developed a presentation for PEAS

school leaders at the George Secondary School to use in staff development sessions to increase

teacher awareness of gender bias and offer strategies for creating a gender responsive

environment that will promote equality in education.


Section 1. The NGO Mission, Vision, and Programs

PEAS is an award-winning British NGO whose mission is to establish quality secondary

schools that are affordable, sustainable, and ultimately governed by local, Zambian faculty

(PEAS, 2012). PEAS secondary schools are located in areas of great need, especially rural areas,

and were founded as a result of the Millennium Development Goals. The United Nations MDGs

have promoted the establishment of thousands of new and low-cost primary schools across sub-

Saharan Africa with great success, but with this success comes the immediate need for secondary

schools, without which the education of children, particularly girls, would end at age twelve. To

meet this urgent need, PEAS has built and is operating twenty-six schools, mostly in Uganda,

with over 10,000 students (PEAS, 2012). With charitable donations from the U.K., government

subsidies from Zambia, and a sustainability action plan in place, PEAS seeks to provide low-cost,

high-quality education to African students, help enable the schools to become independent

within two years, and ensure that students become responsible, well-rounded citizens who can

make informed decisions about vital issues such as health, vocational education, politics, and the

economy (PEAS, 2012).


Section 2. Research Focus: Gender Responsive Teaching

Several factors may contribute to the achievement gap between girls and boys in

education. Major issues involve cultural and socioeconomic barriers, which would require a

broad, yet concerted effort in order to change the norms of the society. In coordination with our

NGO, we opted to tackle a more specific issue that related to teachers at the George Secondary

School to promote gender equality and equity in education. The central research focus for this

project was gender responsive teaching. Research questions included:

1. What is gender-responsiveness and how does it affect girls education?

2. How does communication relate to gender responsiveness?

3. What factors contribute to a gender responsive classroom environment?

4. What teaching techniques enhance gender-responsiveness in the classroom?

5. How can school leaders at George Secondary School promote a policy of gender

equality through teacher development?

Each of our team members contributed to define gender-responsiveness in education through

this research. The following sections provide an overview of our specific areas of research.


The issue of communication presents a number of interesting challenges in relation to

gender responsive teaching. We began by introducing the topic of language, and defined it as a

constantly changing, powerful communication tool which is socially constructed. Then, we

examined the socially constructed nature of gender, explained how it differs from sex, and how it

is deeply embedded in language systems throughout the world. We had participants explore the

implications of this through two group activities: (1) identifying examples of verbal and non-

verbal gendered language, and (2) updating English verbiage to form more gender-neutral

sentences. The presentation addressed differences in styles and patterns of communication

between boys and girls. For instance, boys appreciate opposition in discussion, while girls seek

consensus. The literature encourages elaboration when girls default to using qualifiers or rising

intonation (Mlama, Dioum, Makoye, Murage, Wagah & Washika, 2005). Finally, we wrapped this

portion of the presentation with practical considerations for the GSS teaching faculty and staff,

such as developing a simple awareness towards the following: gender bias, conditioned

responses according to sex, and an attempt to incorporate inclusive language to acknowledge the

presence and value of girls in their classrooms (IREX, 2014). We also stressed the importance of

teacher belief in academic performance as a major contributing factor in their overall success.

Classroom Environment and Dynamics.

French writer Simone de Beauvoir famously called women the second sex, which is

precisely the attitude that progressive, gender responsive educators must not condone or

perpetuate, consciously or subconsciously. Throughout our project, we sought to promote


awareness of inherent gender bias, and we highlighted several different areas that would help

encourage a paradigm shift for faculty members, students, and even the community. For

instance, it is essential that the teachers create a learning environment and foster teacher-student

relationships that value gender equity, for example, valuing the girls interests as much as the

boys. In addition, teachers must seek to ground more abstract concepts (such as in mathematics

and science) in practical, authentic, everyday experiences with which girls are familiar (Pollina,

1995). Finally, teachers and other school leaders should feature and emphasize dynamic,

pioneering female role models in Africa who have dedicated their lives to empowering other

African women and girls. To evaluate the classroom environment, we included a classroom

checklist for school leaders (i.e., the professional development facilitator) to photocopy and

distribute that describes several specific areas for teachers to examine when it comes to

implementing a girl-friendly classroom, such as the following: Being openly questioning and

critical of teaching and learning materials (such as textbooks) which do not include or reflect

girls interests and which portray women and girls in menial roles (INEE, 2005). In conclusion,

gender responsive educators will improve the quality of education at GSS and the academic

achievement of girls in particular.

Instructional Strategies.

Teachers should consider their approach for lesson planning and implementation in

constructing a gender responsive environment. Specific teaching strategies that are proven to be

best practices can solicit participation from all students in a classroom and engage all learners in

ways that are unique to them. To avoid gender bias and encourage participation from both

genders equally, teachers may need to re-think how they craft an introduction to a lesson, use

scaffolding, vary the types of learning tasks, and structure questioning strategies (IREX, 2014).

Lemov (2012) provides several teaching techniques such as the hook, cold call, wait time, and

checks for understanding that are concrete and applicable methods for improving student

engagement and learning. Effective teachers reflect upon how they currently plan and

implement lessons and instructional strategies to engage all learners and to set goals for honing

their craft to make learning relevant and meaningful to the students (Henes, 1994).

Section 3. Current Approach, Challenge, The Research, and a Theory of Change

GSS currently delivers professional development trainings to faculty and staff on an

occasional basis which last approximately one and a half hours each. The School Leadership

Team (SLT) typically previews and approves content before implementation. For this particular

project the NGO sought research support from Team 4 of the CAEP JHU course in the area of

gender responsive teaching.

Little had been done on this topic with regards to professional development, and

participants were likely unaware of their bias. Ms. Hills expressed excitement around the idea

of promoting awareness and change in the school around the issue. She hoped it would also

prompt dialogue in the local community where there also exists a clear need for reform.

In conversation Libby Hills relayed further contextual information providing Team 4

more perspective and a deeper understanding of the situation. Due to the rural location of GSS

the families are traditional, and there are many young pregnancies. Six were recorded just this

last year. Thus, girls in the village tended towards early marriages. Moreover, the value of

education is not well-understood. Absenteeism due to personal and sexual relationships, a lack

of sensitivity at home regarding the needs of girls, poor employment prospects for women, and

a male-dominated society all posed significant challenges in developing a thoughtful

presentation on gender responsive teaching. (L. Hills, personal communication, March 18, 2014)

Issues in girls education such as equity and access are vast and present world-wide.

IREX (2014) states, 53 percent of the worlds out-of-school children are girls and two-thirds of

the illiterate people in the world are women (p. 8). Common factors affecting gender equality

in education include poverty, political instability, cultural attitudes toward women and gender

roles, limited resources, inconsistent educational policies, limited employment opportunities

and lack of public support (IREX, 2014). A study conducted by VSO Cameroon and FAWE

(2013) of primary and secondary schools in Cameroon revealed that males greatly outnumbered

females in the teaching profession, female teachers often faced sexual harassment and other

barriers in their profession, and that many were not familiar with the concepts of gender

responsiveness and gender sensitivity. In examining this issue from the economic perspective,

The Girl Effect Factsheet (2012) indicates that closing the unemployment gap between females and

males may yield a 1.2% GDP increase in a single year, and that an extra year of secondary

education would boost a girls future wages from 15-25%.

In order to better understand our global and regional contexts, Libby Hills and the

research provided the team with some startling statistics and confidential data as part of a PEAS

Demographic Survey Analysis Report in 2013 on GSS. For instance, only 27.7% of mothers of

rural GSS pupils complete secondary school, compared to 70% in other developed areas (L.

Hills, personal communication, April 4, 2014). At one of two nearby universities there are 5700

students, and a mere 1500 of them are female. Meanwhile, 99% of students in the "secretarial

program" are women. (L. Hills, personal communication, April 4, 2014).

In consideration of the global and local issues surrounding equality and equity in girls

education, our primary focus to assist PEAS school leaders was to provide a training resource

for teachers with regards to genders responsive teaching. The Forum for African Women

Educationalists (FAWE) (2006) defines gender responsive pedagogy as teaching and learning

processes which pay attention to the specific learning needs of girls and boys and calls for

teachers to embrace an all-encompassing gender approach in the processes of lesson planning,

teaching, classroom management and performance evaluation (p. 4). Teachers are critical to

shaping the classroom environment, so increasing their awareness of gender bias, stereotypes

and issues that prevent equality is necessary for meaningful change to take place.

One of the greatest challenges facing the team was how to construct a culturally

supported, contextually relevant and meaningful training session to implement a Theory of

Change (TOC). To this end team members agreed in partnership with Libby Hills to include

African and Zambian anecdotes, insert video footage of stories from girls to humanize their

experiences where appropriate, and cite credible research sources to increase stakeholder buy-

in. For example, noting that educational equity is a priority of the Zambian government, or

incorporating strong female role models with a media presence such as First Lady of Zambia,

Dr. Christine Kaseba-Sata, the First Lady of the USA, Michelle Obama, and Zambian author Dr.

Dambisa Moyo (Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There is Another Way for Africa, 2009).

Libby Hills suggested avoiding patronizing commentary, imposing Western ideas, and

recommended attempting to strike a balance between oversimplification and too much technical

vocabulary. (L. Hills, personal communication, April 2, 2014)

In order to reach our audience Team 4 agreed to emphasize economic incentives for

Zambia to increase and improve education for girls, correlate lower education levels with

statistically higher poverty levels, and simply promote awareness as a "first step" in the right

direction towards educating the GSS faculty and staff on gender-related issues pertaining to

girls in education.

Our TOC starts with the desired impact of improving services and systems as well as the

social conditions of the school organization for the benefit of female students. Corresponding

goals emphasize policy development, adoption and implementation for gender-responsiveness

in teaching for GSS. Our identified audiences are school leaders and teachers. Primary inputs

include the discussion of policy development and adoption for gender responsive pedagogy

and the implementation of teacher professional development focusing on gender responsive

teaching techniques and communication. Through the presentation, activities and discussion

prompts, school leaders will encourage dialogue and increase awareness of gender equality and

equity in education.

Important benchmarks were to deliver a practical PowerPoint presentation on gender-

responsive teaching methodologies as a team to the SLT at GSS, change attitudes and beliefs of

school employees to support the concepts of gender-responsiveness in education, and to adjust

classroom practices to support equity in education. The final benchmark was to cause the target

audience to consider the urgency and complexity of teaching girls and gender equity in


Figure 1. Overview of Advocacy Progress Planner and TOC. This figure illustrates the

key areas of our planner for the theory of change.


Section 4. Perspectives, Recommendations and Considerations

The primary goal for the NGO was to address the achievement gap between girls and

boys at the George Secondary School. As we spoke with the NGO representative, it became clear

that there are many variables that could be contributing factors to the achievement gap and

inhibit the girls success in school. Issues within the control of the school include the way in

which teachers approach education, structure of lessons and curriculum, and opportunities for

supporting female students who lack background knowledge or basic skills in certain subject

areas. Greater societal issues that may be beyond the control of school leaders include

employment opportunities for female students after graduation, familial obligations of female

students, and the sociocultural environment of Zambia with regards to the status of women.

While the sociocultural issues may fall outside the scope of this research, it is important to

consider how these challenges may affect the lives of the students and the approach educators

take in supporting girls education. By improving the quality of education offered and

enhancing engagement strategies for female students, the school organization can play a

powerful role in shaping the students futures and have a positive impact on the surrounding


The scope of this research emphasized the concept of gender-responsiveness as a means

to improve the school environment and develop the teachers professional practice. In

identifying strategies to address school curriculum, teaching and pedagogical issues, we offer

the following areas for consideration: policy definition, professional development, research,

student support, and community outreach. The following table summarizes the recommended

strategies, interventions, challenges and opportunities.

Strategy Intervention Challenges Opportunities

Policy Develop a school- Getting all staff Collaboration for all

Definition wide policy with members and school stakeholders to contribute
regards to gender- leaders to commit; to a school-wide policy;
responsiveness Providing clarity in Create unity in adopting a
terms of the vision for consistent and clear
gender-responsiveness approach to gender
and guidelines for equality in the school
actions and assessment

Professional Provide professional Cultural attitudes may Increase teacher awareness

Development development for affect how teachers of gender bias and
teachers specifically perceive and respond to responsiveness; Promote
geared toward the topic; Transferring and support best practices
increasing gender training content to in teaching; Provide clear
responsive teaching application in the examples for desired
techniques and classroom requires communication and
communication strong leadership and teaching techniques

Research Consider the use of Time for creating and Opportunity for school
school climate distributing surveys and leaders to seek feedback
surveys to analyzing the data; and student insight;
consistently collect Determining what Students feel empowered to
data and feedback action to take after provide feedback in a safe
from students with survey data is collected environment to help
regards to how they and analyzed; improve the school; School
perceive classroom Developing a systematic leaders enabled to identify
participation and approach to annual or trends in perceptions and
gender equity bi-annual surveys for interventions if surveys are
school climate utilized consistently
throughout the year

Student Pilot a tutoring Resources needed to Students who struggle with

Support program to target implement a structured specific subjects could
girls and encourage program may be scarce receive additional tutoring;
them to expand (teachers, time, space); Improve relationships
their academic skills Soliciting participation between faculty and
and critical thinking. from the students may students; Empower girls to

be difficult given their ask questions and learn in a

personal/family collaborative, more
situations personal environment

Community Consider formation Time and resources Potential for GSS to get
Outreach of community needed to establish more support from local
partnerships partnerships with local community; Girls may
between the school entities; Building build work skills and
and local business, rapport with local connections for future
agricultural, entities so that they are employment; Students may
educational or other willing to have students gain real-world experience
potential visit or serve in to enhance their learning
stakeholders in internship-type through meaningful,
supporting the scenarios hands-on application
students education
and providing them
with real-world

Table 1. Strategies, Interventions, Challenges and Opportunities for GSS. This table provides a

summary of each area, the intervention, challenges and opportunities.

Our research for the NGO focused on the second strategy, professional development for

teachers. We provided a PowerPoint with supplemental handouts for school leaders to utilize in

a presentation on gender responsive teaching. Changing attitudes and perceptions toward girls

education may be difficult depending upon the backgrounds and beliefs of the staff, but starting

with a professional development session to introduce teachers to the topic should increase

awareness and help teachers to integrate best practices into their instructional strategies.

Section 5. Individual Contributions (of Team Members) and the NGO

Name 1: This case study presented a great challenge for our team to expand our knowledge and

skills in research. Coordinating efforts with an NGO on another continent posed some

challenges in terms of communication, but each of us successfully made contact with Ms. Hills.

Danielle led the way in establishing email contact, I conducted the first meeting with Ms. Hills

via Skype, and Nate and Danielle conducted the second Skype interview. Together we

collaborated through email, Google Docs, and Skype to develop the research and divide the

tasks for the case study. I contributed templates to organize our presentation, paper and meeting

notes, and several resources for broad research on gender-responsiveness in education. Danielle

and Nate were able to provide additional details we needed through their second interview with

Ms. Hills, which steered our research for the final presentation. In coordinating the themes of

research, Nate provided information on communication in teaching, Danielle took on classroom

environment/dynamics, and I focused on instructional strategies. Overall, we successfully and

equitably shared the the work for this case study.

Name 2: I really believe that each of us contributed equally. We divided all the areas of the

project from the research to the Voicethread, and we tried to capitalize on our individual

strengths and interests. For example, Erin incorporated SmartArt to adapt the APP, I learned

how to use Tubechop to include video clips, and Nate designed colorful, effective slides for great

visuals. We met all of our deadlines, we worked hard, and we created a thought-provoking,

multimedia presentation for Zambian teachers in a short amount of time, all the while navigating

several potential (cultural) minefields.

Name 3: This is a strong team. We work very well together, and I believe came to enjoy our

weekly planning sessions over Skype, via texting and Google Docs for this project. Erin and

Danielle were very accommodating team members, especially given my production week

schedule at the beginning of this process for which I am very grateful. I really appreciated their

help getting the ball rolling on this case study. We initially assigned Danielle as our leader, but

due to technical reasons and scheduling some of those duties ended up being shared. Danielle

was instrumental in setting up and and handling communications with our NGO. Also, her

mobilizing efforts early on were fantastic. Erins gifts to our team were consolidating information

and then providing scaffolding, and keeping everyone on schedule. There always seemed to be

an outline or a template waiting for the team which made all of our lives simpler. She deserves

credit for the reference list too. My specific contributions on this project were primarily

identifying research and handling the communications portion of the PowerPoint, and then all of

the other duties which we distributed equitably amongst the three of us. It is my opinion that a

large part of our overall success as a team this semester had to do with the manageability of

working in a group of three people.


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