Perception and Reflection of Gender in Classroom Discourse and Behaviour: A Study of Two Primary Five Science Lessons

Sio Kim Hwa

English Language Honours AE, NIE, 2002


Classroom interaction shapes pupils' perceptions of their competence, which in turn affects their achievement in specific subjects. Research suggests that the differences in teacher-pupil interaction may be influenced by the subject matter being taught. Science has always been perceived as a "masculine" subject. A large body of research has shown overwhelming male dominance in many science classrooms. However, few studies in Singapore exist that compare differences in teacher interaction with girls and boys across subject areas including science. Thus, the present research is a study in this direction, exploring the relationship between the gender perceptions and beliefs of two science teachers and their classroom discourse and behaviour in the Singapore context. Primary Five pupils engaged in small group activities in the science lessons of those two teachers were observed for gender differences during their interaction.

The study was carried out through classroom observations, surveys and interviews. The interviews and observations were recorded and transcribed. The survey responses were tabulated. The data was then analysed.

The findings revealed that both Science teachers hold stereotypical views of the ability and behaviour of pupils, but this was one of several factors that affected teachers' differential treatment of girls and boys in science lessons. Other factors include the science ability of individual pupils based on their test results, and each teacher's knowledge of his/her pupils' personalities. An analysis of four mixed-sex group interactions revealed significant gender differences. Boys were found to dominate discussions while girls played the more supportive role, asking more facilitative questions to keep the discussion going. However, contrary to previous research, the data revealed that girls made more interruptions than boys, though these were of a cooperative nature. Pedagogical implications include the need for science teachers to increase their awareness of their gender perceptions and beliefs, as well as their classroom discourse and behaviour.