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Module 3: Gender in practice

3.1 Seeing through gender-tinted glasses

Gender-aware teaching methods are based on the perception that gender is significant in learning, knowledge and teaching. This means, in turn, that teaching assistants must reflect on the concept of gender, critically examine the significance of gender in the teaching assistant’s subject area, and question any preconceived notions we may have regarding gender and its consequences in teaching.

Conducting gender-aware teaching may involve becoming aware that students are received differently depending on, for example, their sex, and that there are different conceptions of men and women and the expectations placed on them. Male students receive affirmation from the teacher more often. Research has shown that teachers give boys/men a great deal more attention and time than girls/women (Erson & Lundgren, 1996). This appears to be the case independent of the sex of the teacher. In general, male students try to interrupt more often, and are more often successful, than female students in the same course, even if men hold a minority position in the group (Fahlgren, 2002).


3.2 Considerations when planning lab work, exercises, etc.

Teaching assistants and mentors are expected to be responsible for leading, planning and giving structure to the seminars, group exercises and other practical components for which they are responsible.


As teaching assistant, you are expected to be aware of how work is distributed during projects, exercises and laboratory sessions. For example, when there are tasks to perform such as keeping notes of meetings, are they distributed among the group members, or is the same person always compelled to do them?

  • Female and male students sometimes act differently, or at least describe the way they act differently. One example is the question of why a person took on a particular role. Women will most often answer: “I chose it because it interests me”, with the next most common answer being: “Because it just turned out that way”. Men, in contrast, most often answer: “Because I signed up for the task”, with the next most common answer being: “Because the task was assigned to me”.
  • Invest time in forming a positive and well-functioning group in which trust, confidence and fairness form a natural base. One important part of creating a well-functioning group is that the teacher must make the rules of the game clear, right from the beginning. Discuss and reach agreement with the students about how interaction and communication are to be conducted during all components of the course.


3.3 Considerations for teaching situations

  • Be aware of how vocal women and men are in teaching situations such as exercise classes, laboratory sessions, etc., and how their level of participation develops.
  • If necessary, do not hesitate to change your teaching methods if you notice an imbalance between the duration of men speaking versus that of women speaking, i.e. ensure that the opportunity to speak in class is more evenly distributed.
  • Examine yourself and notice the way in which you give affirmation to students.
  • Be aware of how you react to the oral contributions of the students, and the relative significance given to women’s and men’s contributions to the teaching.
  • Remember that you, and the way you act, create confidence and trust in the group.


3.4 Checklist

  • Continuously review the course literature used in exercises and laboratory sessions from a gender-aware perspective. Examples of aspects to consider are:
  • Are both women and men present in the literature and in the examples discussed in your classes, laboratory sessions and groupwork?
  • What are the ways in which women and men are presented in the course literature and in the examples used in your classes and laboratory sessions?
  • What are the ways in which they are discussed?
  • What do the various descriptions and explanations concerning women and men express?
  • Invest time in forming a positive and well-functioning group in which trust, confidence and fairness form a natural base.
  • Be aware of the ideas and perceptions of women and men that you convey through the way you speak and the examples you use when teaching.
  • Be aware of how different examples are described in the literature – are they intended to be read by women or men, or are they neutral in this respect?
  • Use material and examples that are considered by all students to be inclusive.
  • Consider how you read, assess and evaluate the students’ texts.
  • Be continuously aware of the criteria you use for assessing laboratory sessions, exercises, etc., and never cease to examine these critically. Remember that your ideas about gender can influence your assessment of a text, since we take it for granted that either a woman or a man has written the answer. On many occasions we base our reading on the assumption that a particular sex has produced the text, and we include our ideas about people based on sex.
  • Be aware of how vocal the women and men in the group are. Also consider how this develops in different teaching situations.
  • Be aware of how the work is distributed during projects and laboratory sessions.
  • When projects or laboratory sessions are carried out in groups, the teacher and the students must be jointly responsible for ensuring that the students take turns in adopting different roles.


1. Facts and figures

2. The teaching assistant

3. Gender in practice

4. Behaviour to be counteracted

5. Examples from courses

6. Teaching assistant experiences

7. Reflection

8. Plan for the gender-awareness course


Do you have any questions or comments? Or if you represent another organization or academy, and want to use this material? Please contact course coordinator:


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Last updated: 2020-06-29