Rethinking single sex teaching

Ivinson, Gabrielle and Murphy, Patricia (2007). Rethinking single sex teaching. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press.



The retreat to single-sex classes in co-educational comprehensive schools in the UK reflects a long history where educational policy and practice has made explicit the belief that boys and girls are different in how they learn and what they should learn. However there is also a common assumption that there is equality in what is made available to learn and, if there is not then single-sex organisation achieves this. The authors challenge this offering a sociocultural theoretical analysis of the debate about single-sex teaching, presenting insights from research about the intended and unintended consequences of gender division in schools. Drawing on ethnographic data including classroom obswervations and in-depth interviews with teachers and students, the book illustrates how gender emerges in practice in single-sex settings and the effect on learners and the versions of subject knowledge made avialable to them. In exploring the differences in teachers' practices between boys' and girls' settings in subjects such as Science Design and Technology, English and Drama, the authors highlight how single-sex organisation can, create circumstances that constrain rather than extend students' agency and access to subject knowledge. The authors offer conceptual tools for investigating the knowledge - gender dynamic, advocating that learning will expand if teachers undertake gender work to help students to cross boundaries into non-traditional gender territories within subject settings.

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