simplebooklet thumbnail

This ebook lays out the case for the importance of supporting gender and diverse sexuality in various learning environments.

of 0

Supporting Gender & Sexual diversity in Learning Environments


Supporting Gender & Sexual Diversity in Learning Environments

This guide lays out the case for the importance of supporting gender and diverse sexualities in various learning environments. Gender differences exsits, they are a foundamental reality in society. Understanding such issues and acknowledging, rather than ignoring gender difference is the only right response.


Heterosexual normality depicts our cultural, social and in many cases legal management of gender and sexuality. Children enter school with their gender identity development and sexual identity development well underway. Teachers need accurate and shared language to describe and understand the vital gender and sexuality phenomena that occur daily in learning environments. 


Gender and sexual diversity in learning environments.  


All children are treated as, an assumed to be heterosexual when they begin school, and this assumption persist until disproven. Educators should expect children in early childhood settings to express their gender in a variety of ways. This variation is part of the normal range of development. Teachers must support and give latitude to the aspects of the identity development process, irrespective of cultural prescriptions of appropriate 'masculine' and 'feminine' behavior. 


In order to work effectively, teachers must have a conceptual framework that accounts for the range of identities, expressions and behaviors of all the community members. We know that gender, sex and sexuality vary exstisting on multiple and contain a broad construct that inherent in the aspects of human identity, which is based on the belief that sex, gender and sexual identity are essential aspects of human identity for all people, and are inherently diverse. 


In this guide you will find supporting information and defensible strategies that enable educators to be more aware and acknowledge these issues in learning environments. 



Many opportunities are vacant in educational learning environments that educators can give children by prevailing on stereotypes during discussions. These discussions can include developing children’s understanding that they need to take responsibility for their own behavioral actions. "We need to strike a balance between addressing concerns about boy's behavior (as well as worries about the 'vulnerability' of some boys who do not conform to traditional stereotypes) and building resilience in girls in order for them to succeed in a world which still sometimes prizes maleness over femaleness" (National Union of Teachers 2013. p.20). Some opportunities include: Using stereotypical comments as opportunities to challenge assumptions; assisting staff to develop consistent responses to sexiest comments and bullying; explain why sexists’ language is in appropriate; recognize that language is an indicator of attitudes and views; empower girls to understand why they must not use derogatory language to describe other girls. 

gender Stereotypes 


"The influence of gender stereotypes limits the range of experiences many children will engage with at school - terms of books they read, games they play, subjects they study and even other people whom they socialize" (National Union of Teachers 2013. p.26). Educators need to think of children as individuals without imposing social expectations of them linked to gender. Making small changes about the ways sexes are different can help children feel they are all treated equal, such as, not lining children in lines according to their sex, greet them with children instead of boys and girls.  

gender Stereotypes 

gender Stereotypes 

gender Stereotypes 

Sexual diversity 



Teachers are expected to run inclusive and respectable classrooms across all kinds of differences, yet achieving and maintaining inclusively cannot be accomplished through behavior management alone. Intervening in the event of bullying ensures one kind of safety for students. Children are taught from birth society norms and expectations that are required of them and have little choice in what they wear or what they play with. Sexual bullying in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity are not understood. Teachers say they attempt to address bias remarks of all kinds, as they believe it is their responsibility to provide supportive learning environments for students.


"Research has demonstrated how classroom discussions about gender constructions and using literature as a vehicle for deconstructing stereotypes can have a significant impact on educational engagement and learning" (National Union of Teachers 2013. p.3). Students are described as not understanding the concepts of same-sex marriages; children are open and ready to learn about all the family structures that exist in their community and beyond. Without having open discussions about children who have same-sex parents schools are unlikely to ensure physical, social, emotional, and sexual safety for all students, families and faculty. "One way to bring about this change is to educate children for a world in which such stereotypes need not govern our behavior and people are free to pursue the lives they want without feeling that certain things are expected of them or opportunities denied them, because of either their biological sex or gender expression" (National Union of Teachers 2013. p.4).

Sexual diversity 

Sexual diversity 

In the process of building identities the social world and the individual do not just interact, they are dependent on each other mutually constructing, A child is born into a world with pre-existing meanings. "Identity development is a process in which the child actively constructs meaning through reading and interpreting experiences, but is not free to construct any meanings or any identities he/she wants" (MacNaughton, G. 2000. p.24). An educators role is to provide guidance to the child and perspectives to engage them in different conversations about different views and opinions. Identity development is not only absorbed; it requires work and is actively engaged with others. "The challenge in early childhood is to counter those images of identity formation that have underdeveloped and/or simplistic understandings of the relationships between the child and their social world" (MacNaughton, G. 2000. pp.28-29). If this does not happen, gender equity pedagogies will be simplistic and poorly developed. 

Building Identities 

MacNaughton (2000). (p.33) suggests in gender reform programs one aim of this interaction is to expand children's ways of seeing and doing gender. You can do this by inviting dialogue with and between children about gender and provoking their narrations about gender. Specific strategies could include:


  • Giving a voice to all children about gender irrespective, of their gender, race, class or ability.
  • Checking to see whose voices about gender are silenced, marginalized, and trivialized in the group.
  • Exploring multiple ways of creating dialogue about who children are and how they see themselves and their genders.
  • Knowing which stories about gender are narrated in the group and which children narrate these.   


Building Identities 

Building Identities 



 The Learning Environment

This section will focus on discribing appropiate & effective defensible strategies educators use in learning environments. 


Many early child hood centers may seem to be organized in similar ways, these similarities are not common features as Robson (2004. p.205) states "the provision we make comes to life through the ways in which it is used, and it would be very wrong to equate provision with curriculum, it is what we do, or, more importantly, what the children do with the environment and materials in it which matters". The environment must offer opportunities for children to be playful and engage in play, and to develop their linguistic skills by interacting with others. "In practice, staff attitudes will condition children's feelings of 'permission' to use equipment, the timetable will need to ensure that children can have, and have access to the needed materials and equipment" (Robson, 2004. p.211). Child centers should supply a wide range of resources, representing many cultures and not supportive of stereotypes of race, gender, class and disability and must be complemented by the ways in which that provision is used, states Robson (2004. p.212). 

The physical environment 



Some important factors Robson (2004. p.214) points out about the physical environment: 

  • Educators beliefs about aims for young children's learning and development are viable in the way the environment is organized. 
  • The environment can facilitate learning and development or controversy faster a 'learned helplessness'. 
  • There is a need for versatile materials and spaces which extend children's understanding and imaginations and which can be adapted to their needs

"Only y providing a quality environment for children can we hope to ensure a quality experience for them, and thus have high quality expectations of them" (Robson, 2004. p.214).

The physical environment 



Early Childhood Education: Constructive

Learning Environments



Reggio Emilia approach was based on Socio-constructivist model where interactions with people and the environment create knowledge and children will see themselves as active participants in their learning. 

The program is based on the principles of respect, respnsibility, and community thruogh exploration and discovery in a supportive and enriching environment based on the interests of the children throguh self-guided curriculum. "A Reggio Emilia approach involves maintaining a "delicate balance" between providing structure and encouraging children's free exploration" (Tarini & White, 1998. p.379). Children come to share their lived experiences through their creativity, they are an active part in their learning and development. A Child see's an environment, for what they can make of it, noticing objects or places adults never would of thought of. 

Reggio Emilia Aproach  

Educators have to make children aware that respect for all individuals in the learning setting is important and all children have a equal right to learn. 


Children are seen as having an active role in their learning, where given opportunities to explore, observe, question and discuss to clarify their understanding. A focus is also made on the child in relation to other children, family, teachers, and the community. "By seeing the environment as an educator, as the Reggio Emilia approach does, we can begin to notice how our sourroundings can take on a life of their own that contributes to children's learning" (Strong-AWilson, T. & Ellis, J. 2007. p.40). A child will become to love their learning environment if it supports their active learning and feeds their natural curiosity for experimenting. 


Reggio Emilia Aproach  

Signs to look for in schools applying the Reggio Emilia approach


  • Teachers reflect on their teaching practices. 
  • Children are celebrated and seen competent and capable. 
  • The use of documentation is evident, illustrating children's explorations.
  • The educators seek to learn not copy. 
  • Realationships are important (teachers, children, and families. 

Reggio Emilia Approach  


Flowcharts enhance the Reggio Emilia curriculum. Flowcharts record information so others can see the step by step process of how relationships are built; they help educators organize and keep in mind the nature and purpose of the curriculum. Flowcharts tell the past, future and present. Co-construction is also vital in the approach as a child can learn to construct knowledge with peers and adults, and also emphasizes the social nature of activities involving the early childhood years learning supporting the social exchanges that ensure the flow of expectations, conflicts, cooperation, choices, affective, and expressive realms. 

Signs to look for in schools applying the Reggio Emilia approach


  • Teachers reflect on their teaching practices. 
  • Children are celebrated and seen competent and capable. 
  • The use of documentation is evident, illustrating children's explorations.
  • The educators seek to learn not copy. 
  • Realationships are important (teachers, children, and families. 

Cindy works in a early childhood learning centre in a small remote town, most of the children come from low-income families. Funding was very low for the centre and the children were not engaging in activities and majority of the them displayed inappropriate behavior. Cindy had read about the Reggio Emilia approach and informed the other educators about the beneficial outcomes. Cindy used what little resources the centre had available and used the 'environment as a third teacher' approach; she set the room up in a more interesting and thoughtful way, generating a diverse non-stereotypical room, she mixed gender toys and assigned groups of children to exploring projects, where they had to work together and support one another as well as discuss their findings. The children became much more engaged and their behavior improved. This resulted in a happier environment with positive effective learning outcomes. 

Reggio Emilia Approach  


Reggio Emilia Approach  Documented

and environment examples

Reflection requires the development of several dispositions and skills according to John Dewey (1933), including: Open-mindedness; the willingness and abilty to view from multiple perspectives and to synthesize opposing views; the wherewithal to search for alternative explanations of classroom events and the ability to use new evidence to support, evaluate and reconsider previous decisions, assumptions, or theoretical positions. "Moreover, the inquiry process or solution of a problem should help students, construct new understanding of the principles and concepts that are fundamental to good practice" (Hill & Stremmel, 2005. p.50). Whether an educator is teaching or learning the new knowledge is applied by either being learnt or being taught. This new information is directly applied to new developments or to the solution to problems in the learning environment. 



Teacher research has an important part in educational programs. "Teachers as researchers have the power to make a difference  not only in the lives of children but also in their own professional lives, in their educational settings, and in shaping of their discipline" (Hill & Stremmel, 2005. p.55). To be a good teacher researcher an educator must understand the concepts of the considered questions at the start of any investigation. "Two characteristics of good teacher research to be considered at the outset of any investigation: 

  • Teacher research represents an approach in which teachers and students learn from one another, 
  • Teacher researches address real questions you want to learn about, not those that others assign you" (Hill & Stremmel, 2005. p.56). 



Hill & Stremmel (2005. p.45) suggest "there are three major understandings that students of teaching should develop as a result of their teacher preparation experiences. These represent critical elements of what it means to be a teacher researcher. 

  • An understanding that teachers and children are active learners, collaborators, and coconspiration in the negotiation of curriculum.
  • An understanding of the importance of observation, reflection, self-awareness, and interpretation as the foundation of learning in the classroom. 
  • An understanding of the documentation process as a cycle of inquiry involving guestioning; observation; organisation of data; analysis; interpretation and theory building; reframing of guestions and assumptions; planing; evaluation"(Cf. Gandini & Goldhaber, 2011. p.47). 

Inquiry teaching & the early childhood years leaning framework


The Mosaic Approach

   The Mosaic approach is a platform for consulting children through a flexible set of methods; it is an approach which hopes to discover different ways for young children to express their views and experiences. 

Allison Clarke (2010. pp.65-68) provides six tools for understanding and utilizing  the Mosaic approach in learning environments, such as:


1) Observation: we are able to build strong traditions of using observation in early childhood research and practice. 


2) Child conferencing: talking to young children is an important part of the Mosaic approach. 


3) The use of cameras: The use of cameras by children has great poetential and provides opportunities for children to express 'voices'. 


4) Tours and mapping: the Mosaic approach was adapted to include a process of tours and mapping. 


5) Listening about living: The Mosaic approach in use in an educational setting also extends consultation beyond a learning discourse. 


6) Experts in their own lives: the Mosaic approach can also be used as a reflect on their own lives. This way of working is an attempt to move children's evaluation beyond a like/dislike model to one which allows children and adults to reflect on children's everyday experiences. 



A Simple but fun interactive way to use the Mosiac approach in early childhood is to play a listening game, as demonstrated in the clip; children close their eyes and try and quess what song is playing. 


Clarke (2010. p.66) suggests by research and observation, educators can build strong relationships with children. This also helps with the "children's qustions' devised to evaluate the innovative early years curriculum. These questions are drawn from each of the five strands of curriculum: Belonging, well-being, exploration, communication, and contribution. These questions are: 


  • Do you know me? 
  • Can I trust you? 
  • Do you let me fly? 
  • Do you hear me? 
  • Is this place fair? 

The Mosaic Approach


"Two major branches of socio-cultural theory have been identified. The first, commonly known as socio cultural or social-constructivist, emphasis language and forms of understanding embed in social and cultural contexts, relationships and practices. The second is that of cultural-historical activity theory, this theory emphasizes practical activities and cultural practices in shaping learning" (Hedges, 2011. p.25). These branches have been developed by Vygotsky's theory on cognitive development, which is, how children will learn more effectively when new knowledge relates and can build on existing experiences. "Popular culture provided opportunities to learn about such things as physical an emotional well being, identity and making sense of the world and people. Children use popular culture and media at home to form social relationships, for identity construction, development of language and literacy skills and knowledge, to access information and for employment " (Hedges, 2011. p.28). Popular culture provides many beneficial opportunities in educational settings, such as; active partition in learning to enables children to be more involved with their communities; a rich source of knowledge that can engage and extend children's knowledge,  Educators can use pop culture to build stronger more meaningful relationships with children; an educator can understand children's resource and meanings while they are pretend playing; Can provide opportunity to hold open-end discussions on a topic that interests children; Children will understand and actively participate in lessons when they are more interested, pop culture can make lessons more intriguing for children to learn more effectively. 







Children will learn by involving their social world and their individual understandings. "Gura (1996) descirbed what she called the two contexts of lerning, commenting that curriculum arrangements must asknowledge both the inner, or individual context , and the outer, or social context of lerning: They interprentate and togherth make up the human experience of learning (Robson, 2004. p.206). Utelising the wide range of resources that represent cultures, race, gender, class and disability ensures the quality for recognising the importance of supporting gender and sexual diversity within the contexts of the early childhood years learning framework. 


"Children come to care for their sourroundings as well as see them in unexpected ways, whcih becomes of a planned approach to curriculum and evaluation that is organised around "expecting the unexpected" a faviourite Reggio Emilia saying. This approach to curriculum planning is called the negotiated curriculum" (Strong-Wilson & Ellis, 2007. p.42). During play children will often use objects in different ways not planned or intended by educators or the curriculum. This active learning through experimenting is implimenting the hidden curriculum, by learning without the educator knowing; experimenting beyond the reccomended use instructed by educators is viewed as active learning. 


Curriculum and early childhood years learning framework 

Hedges, H. (2011). Rethinking Sponge Bob and Ninja Turtles: Popular Culture as Funds of Knowledge for Curriculum Co-construction. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 36(1), 25-29.;dn=950170717489010;res=IELHSS



Linn, Susan. Endangered species : play and creativity. Consuming kids : hostile takeover of childhood 2004 ch. 4 pp 61-74 The New Press



Robson, S. (2004). The physical environment. In L. Miller & J. Devereux. Supporting children's learning in the early years. (pp. 205-216).



Strong-Wilson, T. & Ellis, J. (2007). Children and place: Reggio Emilia’s environment as third teacher. Theory into Practice,



Hill, L., Stremmel, A. & Fu, V. (2005). Teaching as inquiry: rethinking curricululum in early childhood education. New York: Pearson. (Chapter 3



Clark, A. (2010). Listening to Children. In L. Miller, C. Cable, & G. Goodliff (Eds.), Supporting children's learning in the early years. (pp. 65-70). Abingdon, UK: Routledge.



National Union of Teachers (2013). Stereotypes stop you doing stuff: Challenging gender stereotypes through gender education. Retrieved from



MacNaughton, G. (2000). Rethinking gender in early chilldhood education. St. Leonards: Allen & Unwin. (pp. 11-35)


This E Book was created for Assessment three

EDC 111

Exploring Curriculum


Created By: Sheralyn Gourley

Curtin ID 17862996