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Gender Curricula Educational Science/Pedagogy

Also relevant for Social Sciences, Cultural Sciences, History, Psychology

Course: Educational Science
Group of courses: Law, Economics and Social Sciences

Course objectives:

Women’s and gender studies in education provide students with competences for reflecting on existing and desirable gender relations in the past and in the present. They learn to understand the category of gender as both a social category, present throughout people’s lives, as well as an analytical category to be applied in research in order to identify, assess, and possibly dismiss the value of this research with regard to processes of education, socialisation, and qualification for each generation. 

In order to accomplish the teaching/course objectives, gender-sensitive approaches to teaching and instructions for designing gender-unbiased curricula should be used. This means that acquiring gender competence – resulting in gender-sensitive and gender-reflective interactions with the participants of educational activities at nurseries, schools, non-school institutions of youth and adult education, workplaces and businesses – is a recognised teaching objective. It is possible to prepare the topics of educational subdisciplines for a gender-inclusive kind of teaching by using such suggestions to adopt a multiplicity of perspectives for rethinking teaching methodology.

A precise theoretical use of concepts such as sex, gender, subject, identity, socialisation, individualisation, education, construction and deconstruction as well as social gender orders is of great relevance here. Although research on sex and gender has been taking the significance of gender in education and educational processes as well as the socio-economic and political influences on gender relations into account, the debate on interdependencies between categories such as gender, class, ethnicity, etc. has increased in recent years, especially on a theoretical level. The acquisition of gender competence is therefore hardly imaginable without the acquisition of theoretical knowledge.

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Teaching content/subject-specific gender studies content:

In the subdisciplines of education, or Erziehungswissenschaft in German, which has frequently been recast as Bildungswissenschaften in recent years, topics regarding education, socialisation, qualification, continuing education, teaching and learning, and counselling have been connected to questions about the importance of gender. As a general rule, all teaching contents may be critically investigated and prepared with respect to gender coding.

With regard to teaching, research findings from a gender perspective are available for the following subdisciplines and fields of action:

  • general and historical education
  • early childhood education
  • school education, didactics
  • vocational and business education
  • social education
  • nursing and caretaking
  • rehabilitation science, inclusive education
  • leisure studies, movement science, sport education
  • comparative and intercultural education
  • media education
  • adult and continuing education
  • education of the elderly.

Insights and overviews of the state of discussion and research from a gender perspective have been, after a phase of implementation of women's research projects, more sharply contrasted due to an increase in masculinity research, e.g. promoting boys. Questions on gender inequality and gender research in general no longer focus solely on girls and women. Today, gender research also includes masculinity research (see, e.g. Budde/Thon/Walgenbach 2014). Although it is sometimes argued that gender research has become superfluous, it has become an integral part of the subdisciplines of educational science. At present, it is especially revealing when the subdisciplines cooperate and comparisons between them are made.

Methodical and theoretical approaches

Relevant questions for both educational work and research refer to overcoming traditional attributions of tasks, functions and roles of women and men in society, often understood as heterogeneous and interrelated groups. The flexibility of roles in the social order is an issue that has been subject to debate depending on social and professional contexts. Added to this are questions on the conditions of life, work and recognition of same-sex relationships and how they are treated. Immigration of people from other cultures has set off research that requires a development of new methodical and theoretical approaches to gain further scientific knowledge, especially about "the native and the foreign" (see, e.g. Kleinau/Rendtorff 2012). General questions are: Which society do education, socialisation, training and qualification aim at? Is gender an exclusive or integrative factor for social assignments, ascriptions, occupations, positions, decision-making and leadership functions? Which strategies make gender visible or invisible? When is gender addressed or dethematised?

Methodical and theoretical approaches are usually taken by empirical social research (collection and acquisition of data) or by the humanities taking hermeneutic perspectives on documents or biographically-oriented approaches. Meanwhile, methodical triangulations are used to achieve comprehensive presentations of social phenomena.
Qualitative research methods are often used in educational science to examine how people with different social backgrounds grew up and how their milieu affiliation influences their actions by taking their living and learning contexts into account (see Schlüter 2012).

Debates, educational work and gender research in educational studies result from different approaches to education, learning, biography and discourse taking the following categories into account:

  • gender differences and equalities
  • 'doing gender' as an interaction and communication process
  • education and learning as a development process
  • socialisation as an individualisation process for social integration
  • construction and deconstruction as analytical methods of strategies for naturalising gender attribution
  • heterogeneity, intersectionality, diversity as approaches to understanding social demarcations
  • gender as an interdependent category.

Current topics and discourses in women’s and gender studies in education may be found in the "Jahrbuch Frauen- und Geschlechterforschung in der Erziehungswissenschaft"(Yearbook for Women’s and Gender Studies in Education), published on a regular basis by the DGfE’s women’s and gender studies section. In addition, "Frauen und Genderforschung in der Erziehungswissenschaft" – a publication series edited by Sabine Hering, Anna Maria Kreienbaum, and Anne Schlüter – presents new findings from women’s and gender studies research. Volumes in this series contain historical, contemporary, and especially biography-oriented studies, including studies about the self-concept of female education scholars in the field of women’s and gender studies (2008). In addition, the "Schriftenreihe der Sektion Frauen- und Geschlechterforschung in der Erziehungswissenschaft" (Series of the Section for Women's and Gender Studies in Educational Science) is a journal that also publishes conference proceedings of the section together with other DGfE sections (e.g. "Eigen und anders" (The Self and the Other) published together with the psychoanalytical education section, 2012).

Education-specific contents include:
  • gender in educational fields of action, especially family-based education, education counselling, parental education, school-based education, child and youth welfare, rehabilitation, vocational education and training, teacher education, media education and didactics, intercultural education, education consultation and target group work with adults
  • theoretical approaches to education in certain historical periods (e.g. the Weimar period, post-war period, etc.) in women’s and gender studies
  • psychological and social theories about the importance of gender and gender competence for education and socialisation processes
  • theoretical, philosophical, and linguistic approaches to constructing/deconstructing gender relations
  • analysis of gender discourses in fields of action in education research
  • teaching and learning advice and e-learning on gendering processes in the classroom
  • theories on social labour and the reproduction of social inequality
  • globalisation from a gender perspective
  • discussions on policy interventions such as gender mainstreaming and diversity
  • lifelong learning, biographies, and milieus studied from a gender point of view
  • exploring research approaches to discrimination as a result of structural disadvantaging in society (e.g. intersectionality)
  • ways of teaching educational institutions, as organizations, to deal with the challenges posed by ‘gender and diversity’ as new management strategies.
Aspects of professionalization

Since the 1990s, a section on women's and gender studies has been institutionalised in the German Society for Educational Science, whose executive boards are involved in the development of women's, men's and gender studies. In addition to conducting conferences on current debates, the institutionalisation also resulted in the publication of introductory books on educational women's and gender studies, as well as handbooks, yearbooks and series. In contrast to the sociological or socio-cultural studies orientation of gender studies and gender studies as degree courses, corresponding degree courses are missing in the educational sciences. Exceptions to this are the study course "Educational Theory and Social Analysis" offered by the Department of Educational Science at the University of Wuppertal with a compulsory elective module "Gender Research in Educational Science" and the module "Gender and Diversity" in the Master's degree course "Adult Education/Continuing Education" offered by the Faculty of Education at the University of Duisburg-Essen.

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Integration of gender studies content into the curriculum:

With the introduction of the Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, issues of gender difference, heterogeneity and homogeneity, as well as gender-based selection or inclusion/exclusion have become part of module contents. Ways of implementing these issues are illustrated by the strategies for gender-sensitive teaching and higher education teaching that have been developed for various disciplines (see, e.g. Winheller 2015). If we want to discuss gender binaries and, most importantly, engage in integrative gendering, it is essential to consider gender as a principle for didactic innovation in teaching and academic study. Suggestions for preparing teaching content according to findings from gender studies research are available from the respective disciplinary teaching methodology (Kampshoff/Wiepcke 2012).

Due to the relevance of gender for processes of education, qualification, and development, gender knowledge may generally be included in all education modules. Gender aspects are essential for exploring issues of individual development against the backdrop of societal expectations regarding family and work, and especially regarding career trajectories and leadership skills.

To avoid repetition, it makes sense for module designers of a degree course to coordinate their activities with regard to gender and to discuss gender approaches and topics prior to designing the modules.

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Degree Stage:

Women’s and gender studies content may be taught at all levels of study. It depends on the topic and is related to the transmission of knowledge about processes and structures in educational fields of action, in professional and disciplinary cultures, and in research fields. In general, gender as a social and constructing category should be addressed in all phases of life, all areas of life and work, in every educational and training institution and all development and socialisation processes in society.