Gender-Inclusive Teaching

Watch this video of a primary school that is implementing gender inclusive teaching. Consider the following questions while watching the video:

  1. What gender inclusive practices can be seen in the video?
  2. What commonly held stereotypes are mentioned and dismantled?

Structural approaches

Structural approaches are school or district wide steps that lay the foundation for gender inclusive education. Teachers might think policy is something they have no influence over, but contrarily teachers are actually becoming increasingly more involved in policy making (NNSTOY, 2015). To create a truly gender inclusive classroom it is important to have structural approaches in place as they provide the legal and practical foundation for gender inclusive teaching.

An important step in creating a gender inclusive learning environment is personal development training for all staff and school personnel. This means training not just teachers, but all people in contact with students during the school day including cafeteria workers, bus drivers, administrative staff, counselors and possibly more.  As the past decade has led to an increase in recognition for gender diversity in many Western cultures (Rubin et al., 2020), it can not be expected that school personnel have the knowledge about gender diversity needed to be respectful and inclusive even if they have the best intentions. By mandating training on gender diversity you ensure that all members of staff are on the same page.

Another important step towards gender inclusion is having policies and administrative regulations in place. This includes anti bullying policies as well as policies and procedures considering challenges to books or curriculum and possible concerns from parents (Welcoming Schools, 2020). This also involves having gender neutral bathrooms and allowing students to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity.

The last structural approaches that will be discussed are the student records and information systems. This is for example, the information the school collects when students first register at a school, the way students’ preferred name and pronouns are documented and the way in which private information is handled. Here you can have a look at a gender inclusive registration form.

Having gender inclusive documentation is extremely important as it allows new teachers or substitute teachers easy access to a student’s personal information and pronouns. This in turn prevents students from suffering from the embarrassment and stress that ensues when addressed with the wrong pronoun (Grice, 2020).

What Do You Think?

Some schools use Gender Support Plans and or Gender Communication Plans to help facilitate inclusive school environments. The working and purpose of these plans are best described in the introduction part on the forms themselves (Gender Spectrum, 2019a). To view the forms, click here.

Relational approaches

Relational approaches can also be seen as implicit learning. Hayes and Broadbent describe implicit learning as “The unselective and passive aggregation of information about the co-occurrence of environmental events and features” (1988, p. 251). An easier description is given by Frensch and Rünger (2003); “Learning without awareness” (p. 1). One example of this way of teaching gender inclusion is giving constant inclusive messages as a teacher. Ways teachers can do this include the following (Gender Spectrum, 2019b):

  • Address the class as a whole instead of reinforcing the gender binary concept by saying “boys and girls”.
    • Children, Folks, Friends, Name of school mascot like cheetahs, a made up classname.
  • Avoid grouping children in gender based groups, instead finding other ways to split them.
    • Odd and even birthdays, fries and pizza lovers, colour of shoes, winter or summer.
  • Create a gender inclusive classroom design
    • Put up gender inclusive posters in the classroom.
  • Have gender diverse resources available that challenge stereotypes.
  • Make sure toys and activities are open to everyone.
  • Show that it is okay to do things outside the gender norms
    • Talk about own experiences that are outside the gender norms.
    • Share personal anecdotes of their developing understanding of gender and stereotypes, and what they would do differently now.
  • Avoid gender stereotypes
    • Avoid phrases like “I need a strong boy to help me”, or calling girls “princess” or “darling” whilst boys “mate” or “champ” (chicken pox, 2018).
  • Respect students’ interests
    • Encourage children to find something they love to do disregarding gender norms.
  • Use gender inclusive language
    • There are lots of ways to be boys or  girls or something else. Isn’t that great?
    • Sometimes this stuff is confusing. We get messages that some things are for boys and some things are for girls. These messages are just some people’s ideas. They may not be right for you.
    • Who we are or who others think we are on the outside is not always who we are on the inside. Think of all the things about you that no one can tell just by looking at you.

Instructional approach

This approach included how teachers actively teach about gender identity in the classroom. Contrary to  the relational approach, with this approach students are aware of what they are learning. As there are limitless ways of teaching about gender identity following are some ideas to provide inspiration.

Shut down insults

To create a gender inclusive classroom it is important to always shut down gender or LGBTQI+ insulting comments, or comments that use gender in an insulting way. Eg. “You run like a girl”. This can be done by quick responses like  “Remember, we don’t use put-downs in this class.”, but sometimes it needs a more in depth discussion about why the insult is hurtful. This might need a full lesson to educate the class about a specific LGBTQI+ topic. More quick responses to exclusive comments can be found here. A great video to use when discussing negative “like a girl” comments is this advertisement by Always that challenges why doing anything “like a girl” means doing it poorly.


Practicing pronouns

Merriam-Webstero, the oldest dictionary publisher in the United States was the first dictionary in the US that added “they” as a third-person, singular pronoun for nonbinary people in September of 2019 (Fortin, 2019). As most people use “they” and “them” in a plural context it can be difficult to use it singularly at first. There are ways to practice the use of “they” and “them” in the classroom so when students will encounter someone that uses ‘they/them” pronouns they are able to. One way to practice use of they/them is during a pronouns language lesson where students would generally just practice she/her and he/him. This also reflects back to the students that the binary pronouns she and he are not the only pronouns that can be used. Another fun way to practice they/them pronouns in the classroom is by introducing a class pet or stuffed animal that does not have an obvious gender and use they/them pronouns when talking about them. This last way can also be considered when there is a student that uses they/them pronouns to help other students understand better, or make the student feel less alone.

Lessons about gender identity

Grades K – 2:


Type your examples here.

  • First
  • Second


Children are aware of gender and respond to stereotypes from an early age. Because of this teaching about gender identity can and should start as early as possible. There are many great resources like children’s books and videos on YouTube that can be used to teach about gender even to the youngest students in school.

Have a look

In this TED talk a kindergarten teacher explains how her views on gender changed after she met a former student. She talks about the research she has done and how this new perspective on gender has changed her classroom practice.

Professional development training for teachers

Not only is the lack of understanding of different gender identities a problem among teachers, the stereotypes that teachers possess can impact students negatively as read before. The following documentary depicts the enormous influence stereotypes have on student self esteem and academic performance.

Documentary: No more Boys and Girls- Can Our Kids Go Gender Free

In this two episode documentary a researcher goes to a local British primary school to research perceived gender stereotypes among students in year three (seven year olds) and aims to reduce the differences between the boys and girls by introducing gender neutral education.

In this documentary the teacher had no bad intentions and was completely unaware of how his behavioural difference between boys and girls had a negative effect. This shows that a lot of profit can be gained in this area and thus depicts the need for, and possible benefit of teacher training.

Pause and think

  1. In what way was your behaviour or self perception influenced by gender stereotypes or (lack of) gender identity education?
  2. Were there gender stereotypes reinforced in the school you attended or taught in?
  3. Considering what you have read in this chapter, what are aspects you would want to introduce in your classroom or school.



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Inclusive Perspectives in Primary Education Copyright © 2021 by room305 and Inclusive Education Class 2020-2021 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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