Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Beckett Markland
Submitted: June 2021
Teachers are well positioned to positively influence the school experiences of the young people they work with, which has known connotations for young people’s social, emotional and academic outcomes. Indeed, teachers’ direct interactions with pupils, the formal and informal learning opportunities they provide, and the classroom climate they create culminate to influence the school experiences of their pupils. How teachers navigate their practice may be of particular value to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and other sexual and gender diverse identified (LGBTQ+) young people whose school experiences are known to be challenging relative to their peers, and who often experience adverse outcomes related to these experiences. However, research shows that teachers do not regularly practice in ways which make LGBTQ+ young people feel supported or included in the school environment. Teachers are not always aware of their own capacity to facilitate LGBTQ+ inclusive practice and may feel limited in doing so, constrained by restrictive school systems, wider community resistance, and limitations in guidance as well as their own confidence in adopting such practices. The aim of this thesis was to shift the focus away from barriers that restrict teachers’ practice towards understandings of how they may be overcome. While the contexts and systemic constraints within teachers’ schools cannot be disregarded, the individual teacher has the potential to positively influence the young people they directly work with and it was the aim of this thesis to explore how this may be done.
With this endeavour in mind, two research enquiries were undertaken. Using a three-stage thematic synthesis approach, a review was conducted to explore: what can teachers do to challenge heteronormativity? This placed the emphasis on teachers’ position to de-construct dominant discourses within the school environment that typically position heterosexuality and binary models of gender as the norm. Alongside this, an empirical research project was undertaken to explore teachers’ beliefs regarding gender identity, their beliefs about their own abilities to support trans- spectrum young people, and additional supports and barriers that influence their practice. The targeted focus on gender identity was chosen due to a notable gap in the research base, in which LGBTQ+ identities are often amalgamated, despite evidence that trans-spectrum young peoples’ experiences differ from others in the LGBTQ+ community. Through the course of each research enquiry, implications for teachers’ practice were developed with consideration to the relative facilitators and barriers that might exist in different schools. This included suggestions for teachers to integrate non-normative representations throughout the curriculum, role model inclusivity and acts of social justice, and facilitate co-constructive learning environments with pupils. It was also suggested that teachers can work strategically in their schools, engaging in relational work with parents to co-create possibilities for LGBTQ+ inclusive practices. To support teachers in their own professional learning journeys, possibilities for training and reflection are also suggested. Strengths and limitations of each research enquiry are discussed.