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Allyson Jule Awarded Davis Distinguished Teacher for 2011 at Trinity Western University

Snippets of Insight

"We assume or hope that classrooms are fair and meaningful places. Some teachers may well be more aware than others of the way gender influences performance and participation. If so, how did they get more aware? Most teachers teach the way they were taught. It takes a lot to change things..."
teachers read more here

"I thought my main role as a parent was: to tell them to be themselves. But I can see that there are many places where they can't 'be themselves'. Classrooms make up a big chunk of a child's experience - I want to know what is going on there."
parents read more here

"I don't think this is about women being 'noisier' - it's about participating rather than being a silent audience member in your own life. Also, men are being pressured to be men in ways that are limiting them. Maybe we can all rest a bit if we can stop performing gender and be more genuine with who we are."
students read more here

"The classroom is a microcosm of society. Who counts here and why?"
-- Dr. Allyson Jule, Sh-shushing the Girls

Are you a teacher, a parent or a student? If so Dr. Jule would like to hear from you. What are your views on the sh-shushing of the girls? Read Dr. Jule's personal insights about gender and the sh-shushing of the girls and then please respond.

"Who is talking? Is a critical question for teachers,"
-- Dr. Allyson Jule, Sh-shushing the Girls

To Teachers:

Teachers can be aware that children are sensitive to the question of belonging and take measures to ensure that all students claim and use linguistic space that ensures their participation and therefore their legitimate inclusion. It is vital that teachers and particularly English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers look at the way girls talk in their language classroom. Examining the way girls use speech may bring about a degree of consciousness about teachers' own interactions and their own perceptions of gender.

If the boys are doing all the talking, then the implications may be they're doing all the learning and what are they learning? The "learning" taking place among the boys is not that of math and science, but of language and significance. The whole idea that boys are better at math has long been interrupted. We know boys are not better at math, though they may be rewarded for being good at math in ways that girls are not. I think that the attention paid to boys in classrooms is done by way of language and that the language reveals the boys as more significant to the teacher. Sure, we learn math and science and history in school, but my work explores other things being taught, things that are more subtle and things that reveal who is significant in the classroom. The classroom is a microcosm of society. Who counts here and why?

Q. What if the Punjabi Sikh girls in your study were quiet because their culture values girls' quiteness?

A. This could affect the findings, but that's only part of the story. It doesn't respond to the worldwide issue of gender in classroom. Ethnicity is a variable, just as is age, generations, language and personality. But the trend that's been seen in thousands of other classrooms is that linguistic space is something belonging to boys.

Q. What is "linguistic space?"

A. Linguistic space is the amount of words used. I counted how many the teacher used and how many the boys used and how many the girls used. We already know that boys take more physical space than girls on the playground and in the classroom (boys play soccer, girls play on the swings and boys move around the room more, get out of their seats more often, etc.). I wanted to understand who was talking more - and then why.

Q. Your study focused on one class for a whole year but still it was only one class. What universal truths can you draw from the study of just one class?

A. I don't know if this study tells us anything about universals-or if any study can-but it certainly hints that gender may be a more significant variable than ethnicity. If gender is a bigger card than other variables, then we've got to make it more central in teacher training. We are all complex combinations of various variables and we will never know a formula for what makes us our particular selves. But exploring gender might tell us something more about how we live out our lives, which decisions we make, which paths we choose.

Q. What are the signs that a teacher is "shushing the girls?"

A. Some signs are that teachers call boys by name, give 'first-in' rights to boys, and engage in more complex discussions with boys.

Q. What are alternative behaviours for teachers to practice?

A. Teachers can call girls by name, give girls 'first-in' rights, engage in more complex discussions with girls, etc.

Q. Do all teachers "shush the girls?"

A. Everyone is different but that is why it's important to explore teachers in classrooms. We assume or hope that classrooms are fair and meaningful places. Some teachers may well be more aware than others of the way gender influences performance and participation. If so, how did they get more aware? Most teachers teach the way they were taught. It takes a lot to change things...

Q. As a teacher yourself does this study encourage or discourage you?

A. Both. I like that it is possible to change things by using methods of inclusion in more meaningful ways. But I also recognize that the perceptions of gender roles are deep and personal and profoundly connected to how we feel about ourselves and others. What would happen if we all unleashed our full potential? Would we be amazed or disappointed? Maybe both, but at least we'd be more honest and more fully alive.

Are you a teacher? If so Dr. Jule would like to hear from you. What are your views on the sh-shushing of the girls? Read Dr. Jule's personal insights about gender and the sh-shushing of the girls and then please respond.

"If we as parents really see that gender is a big 'card' to play, and if we understand some of the ways it limits as well as propels people, then we can articulate this better to our children."
-- Dr. Allyson Jule

To Parents:

The shushing of the girls is a complicated thing. We can't solve it, but our awareness can make a great deal of difference here and this can affect the way we manage gender. If we as parents really see that gender is a big 'card' to play, and if we understand some of the ways it limits as well as propels people, then we can articulate this better to our children.

Awareness is not simply a matter of 'oh, now I know'. It is coming to a real and deep and wise understanding of our role in each other's lives. We are all powerful in rewarding or neglecting other people. Who do we really care about, and what do we care about in them? We say we care about 'doing one's best' or 'being who you are' but we don't really think about what that all means. We praise boys for the ways we want them to be (out-going, athletic, fun) and praise girls for the ways we want them to be (elegant, beautiful, quiet).

We perpetuate gender roles because we like them. Yet we know they don't go the distance in one's life because feminine beauty fades fast and masculine prowess is also limiting boys from being more fully human. We encourage them to be masculine and feminine in ways that we are comfortable with. This is much too limiting.

Q. If we do perpetuate gender roles what's wrong with that? We teach or "rehearse" our kids into good manners don't we?

A. If we're going to rehearse our kids into gender roles, then we can't give them other messages, like 'you can do anything'. Instead, we would have to say more clearly, 'you can do certain things that your gender fits best'. If we seriously want to reward our children for accomplishments, then we have to explore the ways they get them and for what effect. I think we are contradictory on the messages we give kids.

Q. If gender in the classroom is a significant variable what other studies support this and what do you as a mom do about the sh-shushing of girls?

A. The largest study was done by the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation in 1992. It searched hundreds of classrooms for ways gender was influencing classroom experience. As a mom, I ask my kids for their thoughts on such research findings. Most often, my son tells me that it isn't true that boys are dominating the classrooms, though my daughter easily agrees. We end up discussing how it is that they might be experiencing different things. How do we know what is 'true' is a large question here. I don't think we can make big claims, but we can unveil a few taboos, interrupt a few assumptions. I ask my son why all the leaders at the G8 or EU meetings are men; this usually gives him pause for thought. He, however, asks me why all the supermodels are women. This gives me pause for thought.

Are you a parent? If so Dr. Jule would like to hear from you. What are your views on the sh-shushing of the girls? Read Dr. Jule's personal insights about gender and the sh-shushing of the girls and then please respond.

To Students:

"We've got to expect complexities and to enjoy complexities, however painful they are."
-- Dr. Allyson Jule, Sh-shushing the Girls

I think it's important that each generation do its own work on this one because each generation faces different social realities. Your world is not like your parents' world, and your children's world will not be the same as yours has been. And yet gender roles, even if different from generation to generation, are consistently different from generation to generation. We can be more articulate in addressing gender as constructed and as ways we limit each other. I want my own kids to be fully human not 'a good girl' or 'a good boy'. I want them to be 'good'. Why would anyone want to live with a person playing a role when they could live with a person who is real, even if being real comes with complications? Roles offer an escape from the complexities of intimacy with another human being. We've got to expect complexities and to enjoy complexities, however painful they are.

Are you a student? If so Dr. Jule would like to hear from you. What are your views on the sh-shushing of the girls? Read Dr. Jule's personal insights about gender and the sh-shushing of the girls and then please respond.

Research that supports the findings in
"Sh-shushing the Girls"

UNESCO Gender in Education Website
Gender equality in education, as one of the six 'Education For All' goals, is a crucial part of UNESCO's work. In the Asia-Pacific region, UNESCO and other UN agencies have been working towards reducing gender disparities in education. This website has been set up essentially to support gender focal points in ministries of education and others involved in promoting gender equality in education throughout the region.
url: www.unescobkk.org/index.php?id=1307

IngentaConnect - Gender in Education
Comprehensive collection of academic and professional publications
url: www.ingentaconnect.com/content/carfax/cgee

Your comments and questions are welcome.
Please email Dr. Allyson Jule: allyson@allysonjule.com

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