Theses Doctoral

A Case Study of Gender and Literacy Performance in an Early Elementary School Classroom: Beyond the Binary

Drennan, Elizabeth

With federal gender equity mandates in place, some may assume that schools are now havens were children are protected from discrimination based on failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity and femininity. Yet, research suggests that the school literacy curriculum serves as a site that privileges gender performances consistent with the binary gender order.

This pattern has been observed such that school literacy practices reproduce the binary gender order through text, talk, and disciplining of the body. Informed by post structural feminist perspectives on discourse, power, and performativity, this qualitative case study employed feminist methodology to explore how power flowed through performances of gender within the context of one second grade literacy classroom. Data sources included participant observation field notes, informal student and teacher interviews, video and audio recordings, and the collection of literacy related objects/documents.

Results of the analysis suggest that there were two distinct literacy spaces within the classroom: the teacher-controlled official literacy space and the student-governed unofficial literacy space. Within the official literacy space, particular teaching moves made at the intersection of gender and literacy could later be linked to particular students’ gender performances. In the unofficial literacy space of the classroom, some students’ gender performances diverged greatly from those they performed in the official literacy space thus making visible how power operates within embodied acts.

Lastly, in looking across the two distinct literacy spaces of the classroom, it was revealed how the flow of power through performances of gender and thus, the discursive practices that hold existing gendered structures in place, were more visible in unofficial literacy spaces than in official literacy spaces. Therefore, results of the analysis suggest that looking to unofficial literacy spaces will provide invaluable guidance when reconceptualizing how official literacy spaces might better support gender equity within the early elementary literacy classroom.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Curriculum and Teaching
Thesis Advisors
Siegel, Marjorie
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
November 9, 2022