Issues of gender and social identity in classroom disputes and collaboration

Year: 1994

Author: Nilan, Pamela

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

While collectively developing a play for performance, male and female students in a mixed ability co-educational secondary classroom grapple with notions of femininity and masculinity. Conflict arises when one strong group of girls attempts to push the developing text in the direction of teen romance fiction. Other students, male and female, demonstrate their opposition to this trend by whispering subversively to each other. When one articulate girl loudly voices her disapproval, the teacher finds it hard to arbitrate effectively without condemning the genre of romance fiction.

In a later Drama lesson, a high-achieving middle-class boy and a low- achieving working-class girl collaborate on the writing of dialogue for male characters. Their agendas in this enterprise are found to be quite different, not only in terms of gender, but also of academic status in the school.

In both instances of co-educational classroom relations examined in this paper, issues of social class positioning and related orientations to the consumption and production of written texts are shown to be at least as significant as gender in explicating interactional phenomena. The question of effective feminist pedagogy is addressed in the light of these considerations.