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«Gender and sexuality in EFL! • classroom interaction • textbooks • dictionaries • Polish context! • broad educational context • EFL • ...»

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Investigating gender and

sexuality in the ESL classroom:

Raising publishers’, teachers’

and student’s awareness

Jane Sunderland (Principal Investigator)

Joanna Pawelczyk (Project Leader)

Łukasz Pakuła (Project Leader)

This document is an output from the ELT Research

Award scheme funded by the British Council to

promote innovation in English language teaching

research. The views expressed are not necessarily

those of the British Council.

Outline Introduction!

• Gender and sexuality in EFL!

• classroom interaction • textbooks • dictionaries • Polish context!

• broad educational context • EFL • Project: methodology and implications • Language vis-a-vis education !

"Educational practices can retard changes, or stigmatize them."  • Cameron (1985: 113) “…schools develop and reinforce sex segregations, stereotypes, • and even discriminations which exaggerate the negative aspects of sex roles in the outside world, when they could be trying to alleviate them.” (Delamont 1990: 2).

Language use is social practice • Despite this, linguistic takes on sexism in education seem to have • been under-appreciated – e.g. no mention in Gender and Education: An Encyclopedia (Bank 2007) Gender and schooling …gender continues to be conceived in a trivialized, • everyday, unquestioned form, and the common- sense belief in an essentialist, self-evident existence of ‘women’ and ‘men’ remains uncontested (Decke-Cornill and Volkmann 2007: 7) Girls and young women positioned as Other in the • broad educational context (Paechter 1998) (???) Gender and schooling The low profile of gender aspect in foreign • language teaching (Linke 2007) Gender and sexuality in EFL teaching/learning materials • (e.g. textbooks, dictionaries) classroom interaction • (teacher-student, student- student, student-textbook) use of materials in classroom • interaction (e.g. what does the teacher do with materials?

what do the students do with (inc. respond to) materials?) Acquiring new perspectives Learning English, productively and receptively, can • … be learning (or … relearning) a gendered discourse role’ (Sunderland 1994: 7) it can also (with hindsight) be learning (and • perhaps learning to resist) heteronormativity Gender and sexuality in EFL Textbooks Textbooks Textbooks seem the most prototypical as well as • the most researched of language learning materials (Sunderland 1994: 55) but: implications of the ‘digital turn’? (Kordjazi • (2012) looked at images in EFL software) Role of textbooks Language textbooks play a unique role in the • process of potential empowerment or disempowerment of language learners (Shardakova and Pavlenko 2004)

–  –  –

What, if anything, may gender stereotyping in • written texts (and other forms of gender representation) mean for the learner’s gender identity? (Sunderland et al. 2002: 224) Learners can inwardly resist what they read • Learners can outwardly contest what they read • Early content analysis of English language textbooks (1) (Sunderland 1994:55-56)

1. Invisibility, i.e. fewer female than male characters ( e.g.

Porecca 1984)

2. Occupational stereotyping, in both type and range of jobs; when men are shown performing housework tasks, they may do these badly: the ‘inadequate male’ stereotype (Pascoe 1989)

3. Relationship stereotyping; i.e, women seen more often in relation to men than men are to women, usually in a relationship of flaunted heterosexuality or a perpetually happy nuclear family, and associated strongly with the domestic sphere (Piihlaja 2008) Early content analysis of English language textbooks (2) (Sunderland 1994:55-56)

3. Personal characteristic stereotyping, e.g., women as over-emotional and timid (e.g. Talansky 1986)

4. Disempowering discourse roles for female characters 5. ‘Degradation’- blatant sexism often to the point of misogyny (see Schmitz 1975) Some of these early findings still await attention on • part of syllabus designers and textbook authors (Kobia 2009; Gharbavi and Mousavi 2012) Textbooks - problems/issues

For learners:!

• Clash between women’s/girls’ aspirations and actual portrayals?

Learners interact with the text at conscious and unconscious levels

For writers and publishers (and campaigners!):!

• Should textbooks reflect - if only symbolically- the way the world really is? Or should they construct a more ‘progressive’ version?

For textbook (critical) analysts:!

–  –  –

Linguistic analysis (e.g. of adjectives in relation to gender) Discourse analysis (e.g. of dialogues) Visual analysis (e.g. Giaschi (2000) revealed considerable gender differences in representation in selected EFL textbook images) Multimodal analysis (e.g. of illustrated reading comprehension texts) ‘Talk around the (textbook) text’ i.e. The teacher’s discourse in relation to the textbook

texts, in particular:

“How the language teacher, in his or her ‘reader aloud’ role, talks about gender in textbooks” (Sunderland et al. 2002: 229) i.e. at ‘gender critical points’, “The teacher would then have to do something about the particular gender representation (2002: 231) ‘Talk around the (textbook) text’ The most non-sexist textbook can become sexist in the hands of a teacher with sexist attitudes (Sunderland 1994: 64) Conversely: a teacher can ‘rescue’ a sexist or extremely heteronormative text A proposed agenda for future textbook studies (Sunderland, forthcoming)

1. the desiderata: symmetrical representation of female and male characters, both qualitatively and quantitatively, or one that mirrors the social and professional realities of a given context?,

2. cross-cultural variation in the above, and whether this can be explored in a non-essentialist way 3. ‘sub-genres’, i.e. not to look only at a given textbook (or textbook series) as a whole, but to analyse sub-genres such as ‘reading comprehension texts’, ‘dialogues’, ‘grammar exercises’,

4. polysemy of meaning of given textbook texts

5. critical linguistic/discourse analysis, e.g. of agency and transitivity

6. image analysis!

7. multimodality!

8. actual use of/response to the (gendered aspects of) textbooks by teachers and students

9. consideration of specific texts about gender

10. connections with other comparable genres, including children’s reading schemes

11. production (i.e. by publishing companies)

12. gender representation and foreign language acquisition/learning

13. exploration of sexuality/heteronormativity ‘Queer thinking about language teaching’ (Cynthia Nelson 2007, 2009) Rethinking our habitual heteronormative practices • can open up new spaces for exploring language and learning (2006) ‘Monosexualizing’ tendencies that have long • permeated the literature on language education are beginning to be challenged Reflexivity (teacher, student, researcher) • Queer Pedagogies Using lesbian and gay themes to explore divergent • cultural meanings and meaning-making practices Unpacking students’ normative questions about gays • with a view of challenging the heterosexual hegemony.

Examining the life history narratives of queer residents • who are part of the same local communities as the language learners
 (Cynthia Nelson 2007) Addressing students’ selves Acknowledgment of students’ multiple identities (as well as • multilingual realities) Incorporation of various forms of linguistic and cultural • capital brought into the classroom by the students.

Continuous exploration of commonalities and differences • in the discourses of gender and sexuality across cultures and communities in order to keep a ‘multi-voiced consciousness’ (Aneta Pavlenko 2004: 67) also of interest: DePalma and Jennett (2010), Morrish and • Sauntson (2007), De Vincenti et al. (2007) Gender and sexuality in EFL Classroom interaction Teacher’s role in dealing with issues of gender and sexuality Crucial position of the teacher •

–  –  –

facilitating (particular) classroom discussion topics; power to endorse some views, refute others, repress/ignore still others potential for (dis-)empowering students Gender and sexuality in EFL Dictionaries An authoritative dictionary “Cloaked in the virtues of an avowed descriptive objectivity and traditional authority, the dictionary is potentially one of the most dangerous carriers of cultural bias and prejudice” (Gershuny 1975: 938) Under-researched area (1974-2005)


• Headwords/Definitions (Rose 1979, Kramarae 1985, Tenorio 2000, Braun and Kitzinger 2001, McConnell-Ginet 2006, Ball 1998) Example sentences (Gershuny 1974, 1975; Kaye 1989, Iversen 2005)

–  –  –

Theoretical considerations (Landau 1985, Kramarae 1992, Russel 2011) Reports on completed lexicographic projects (Graham 1975, Kramarae 1985) UADs “Dictionaries appear to be objective. The real subversiveness of dictionaries does not lie in their condoning or even encouraging nonstandard uses […] but rather in their practice of covertly promoting the personal views of lexicographers responsible while overtly setting out these views as if fact.

Dictionaries’ claims to ‘authority’ are hollow: the UAD [Unidentified Authorising Dictionary – ŁPP] is a myth.” (Moon 1989: 68) Marriage is…

–  –  –

She has had an offer of ~ (OALD2) give sb (esp one’s daughter) in ~ (to sb), offer her as a wife (OALD2) Her first marriage ended after five years. (OALD4) She has two children by a previous marriage. (OALD8) She has three very marriageable daughters. (LDOCE2) She has three daughters from a previous marriage. (LDOCE4) She went to live abroad after the break-up of her marriage. (CALD3)

–  –  –

Transferring/Applying research insights from • gender and language studies to FLT contexts (see Linke 2007) Socially-informed and up-to-date language • teaching and learning Polish context research into equality in • Polish education

–  –  –

No direct research into non normative • sexualities in ESL Research into equality 2002-2004 - Szkoła Otwartości ‘School of Open mindedness’!

2010-2011 Wielka nieobecna - o edukacji • antydyskryminacyjnej w systemie edukacji w Polsce ‘The great absentee - on antidiscriminatory education in the Polish educational system’ 2011 Przemilczane, Przemilczani ‘Silenced (f/m)’:

• situation of LGBTQ students at the University of Warsaw 2012 Lekcja równości ‘The lesson of equality’ • Pioneering textbooks review 2013 Szkoła milczenia • ‘School of silence’ !

–  –  –

proper use of technical terms course book contents vs. state-of-the-art knowledge marked/unmarked language communicating issues of nonheterosexuality accommodating the contents to the target group, age-wise images and multimodality equality aspect (especially lesbian and bisexual women vis-a-vis men)

–  –  –

 • course books generally silence the issue of LGBTQ people but if they take it up, they do so in a way that stands in stark contrast to the 
 state-of-the-art knowledge.  Jaworski (1986) the only Polish study dealing with sexism in FLM • (foreign language materials) covering Polish EFL course books • not informed by guidelines designed by other • (feminist) reviewers (e.g. Schmitz 1984) two perspectives discussed: language of women • and androcentrism in language-use Jaworski (1986)

–  –  –

problems in classification certain depictions as sexist; how should that be evaluated? no objective criteria?  activities considered sexist for women are praiseworthy when performed by men is it sexist to only read about boys who are disobedient?  relevant examples mentioned by feminist reviewers?  no discrimination against men; they are also stereotyped some reviewers are dishonest about the contents of the examined books altering their contents to suit their hypotheses impressionistic judgements in evaluating FLM The Project Methodology and implications Rationale research into gender/sexuality in educational settings is a • current social imperative teachers find the lack of conceptual and pedagogical tools • highly problematic; this leads to warding off any classroom talk on ‘sexuality’ (Świerszcz 2012) unequal treatment of boys and girls during classes • (although unreported by teachers) (e.g. Kopciewicz 2011) Bullying and harassment leading to acts of suicide with • respect to non-normative sexuality in schooling contexts have been documented (Agostinone-Wilson 2010) RQs

1. How is gender and sexuality portrayed in ESL materials? How are the materials consumed in classroom talk? (stage 1)

2. How is gender and sexuality manifested in teacher-student and student-student interactions? (stage 2, Classroom)

3. How does students’ experiences and identities relate to the content of ESL materials? (high school and university level) What are students’ and teachers’ attitudes towards these portrayals/ constructions? (stage 2, FGs)

4. What is Ministry of Education coursebooks reviewers’ awareness level of gender- and sexuality-related issues? (is there any attention paid to this aspect of ESL materials at all?) (stage 3, Interviews) Structure

–  –  –

practical guidelines for publishers • practical advice as how to manage issues of • gender and sexuality emerging in the context of the classroom workshops for teachers and all interested parties;

• brochures


Agostinone-Wilson, Faith. 2010. Marxism and Education beyond Identity: Sexuality and Schooling. Palgrave Macmillan.

Ball, Matthew. 1998. Dictionaries and ideology: the treatment of gays, lesbians and bisexuals in lexicographic works.

Unpublished M.A. dissertation: University of Ottawa.

Braun, Virginia and Celia Kitzinger. 2001. ‘Telling it straight? Dictionary definitions of women’s genitals’, Journal of Sociolinguistics 5, 2: 214–232.

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