A Brief Overview Into The Research Related To Men In Early Childhood Education
Currently, about five percent of the people in early childhood education are male. One could make many reasonable arguments for having more men in early education. For example, the high rates of children growing up with single moms who have no positive male figures in their lives could possibly benefit if they had male teachers. Having more men in the field might make more fathers be willing to get involved in an early education setting. There is also the possibility that more men in the field could help reverse gender stereotypes such that men can’t be nurtures or effectively work with young children. However, while these all seem like sound arguments in the case for more men in the field, at this point in time they all are just conjecture. We cannot prove that lets say fathers are more likely to be involved because of more male teachers, because there has not been any research on that topic. In fact, there has been little research into men in early education overall most likely due to the aforementioned scarcity of men in the field. On the other hand, this should not mean that we go into this change project with no research base. First off, this paper will review the limited amount of research regarding men in the field with a specific focus on why men do or do not choose the field and why those who do choose the field stay in the field. In an ideal world, we would then look into research regarding the different interaction styles of male teachers vs. female teachers and whether there are any measurable outcome differences for students in classrooms where a male is present. Unfortunately, these type of studies are few and far between. Thus, we will look into research into the different parenting styles of men vs. women. While this research does not specifically apply to men vs. women in early education, in a way it could be used as proxy research to give more informed theories about possible differences in the ways male vs. female teachers behave in an early education setting since early childhood educators in some ways operate ‘In Loco Parentis”
One of the most extensive studies regarding men in the early education was conducted by Paul Sargent in 2005. He wanted to research ECE because he believed it to be a “gendered” field. In his research he interviewed over 50 men who worked with children from birth through third grade. The men being interviewed had a variety of responses to questions regarding their experiences but certain themes emerged; for example, many of them spoke about the perception of early education being focused more are nurturing than anything else which society defines as women’s work. Many men also spoke of the double standards that emerge for men in this environment such as the different perceptions of a young child sitting on a female teacher’s lap vs. a male teacher’s lap. Others reported that even administrators and coworkers warned men in the field that they should constantly be “on guard” and that they should work extra hard to build the trust of parents (Sargent).
A study similar to the one discussed in the previously paragraph occurred in 2001 at Wheelock College; in that study, a focus group of current men in the ECE field and current college students either majoring in early or elementary education was convened. This group brought up other concerns of men in the field. First, was low salaries; many men reported that the need to either literally be the “bread winner” that made enough money for the family to live off of or the need to be perceived as a “bread winner” made them reluctant to stay in the field which has such low salaries (Cooney & Bittner , 2001).
A related issue the need of being seen as a “bread winner” was that of perception of masculinity; some men reported having issues with their family members or friends when they told them they wanted to work in early education. For instance, one many recounted a story of his father wanting him to be leave the ECE field to become an electrician which was the family business and which the father perceived to be the more masculine. In addition, every man in the focus group answered yes when asked if their male friends give them a hard time for being or wanting to be a teacher (Cooney & Bittner , 2001). Many of these same issues regarding salary, worries about being perceived as a pervert, and issues of masculinity were also brought up in a 2012 article regarding men in early education in Wheelock College’s Aspire Institute (Kokoros 2012)
While most of the focus regarding men in early education has been their experiences in the field, there have been a few studies done relating to how male and female early educators interact differently with children. A study where 10 male and 10 female preschool teachers found that both male and female teachers agreed that men were more likely to engage in physical or loud play with the children while the female teachers were more likely to emphasize calm play. Additionally, it was perceived that female teachers were more concerned with building social skills while male teachers where more concerned with physical skills (Sandberg & Pramling-Samuelsson , 2005). As far back as 1981 a study where 20 male 20 female preschool teachers were observed found similar results; this was especially true in that men were more likely to engage with children in physical play (Fagot , 1981 ).
On the other hand a study that was done on a small scale that attempted to determine if preschool children perceived their male teacher differently than their female teachers found that children used similar terminology and descriptions of what the male and female teachers do in the classroom which could suggest that children’s perceptions of male vs. female behavior might not be the same as adults (Sumsion 2005). However, that research has not been replicated and thus must not be considered definitive and it should be noted that the author of the above study frequently noted the paucity of research on this topic.
Cooney, M. H., & Bittner , M. T. (2001). Men in early childhood education: Their emergent issues. Early Childhood Education Journal , 29(2), 77-82.
Fagot , B. I. (1981 ). Male and female teachers: Do they treat boys and girls differently?. Sex Roles , 7(3), pp 263-271 .
Kokoros, T. C. (2012). in the land of women: Being a man in early childhood education. Aspire Institute , Retrieved from http://blog.wheelock.edu/in-the-land-of-women-being-a-man-in-early-childhood-education/
Sandberg, A., & Pramling-Samuelsson , I. (2005). An interview study of gender difference in preschool teachers’ attitudes toward children’s play. Early Childhood Education Journal , 32(5), 297-305 .
Sargent , P. (2005). The gendering of men in early childhood education. Sex Roles , 52(3-4), 251-259 . Retrieved from http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11199-005-1300-x
SumSion, J. (2005 ). Male teachers in early childhood education: issues and case study. Early Childhood Research Quarterly , 20(1), 109–123.