Date of Conferral

2016

Degree

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

School

Education

Advisor

Michael A. Raffanti

Abstract

Children begin to develop their understanding of gender in preschool, yet there is a dearth of research focused on understanding how preschool teachers affect the gender identity development of young children. Guided by Rokeach's belief systems theory, this qualitative case study explored the pedagogical strategies and perceptions of 4 Sacramento County, California preschool educators related to the gender identity development of young children. Interview data were collected and coded to derive 12 participant-specific themes and 3 common intersecting themes, which showed that teachers' perspectives on gender identity development were influenced by social rules, biases, and a lack of pedagogical knowledge related to more expansive definitions of gender. As a result of the lack of pedagogical knowledge, there was only 1 gender-related instructional strategy concerning gender roles, and this strategy was used by only 1 of the 4 respondents. Although they may have shown confusion relating to aspects of gender, these preschool teachers demonstrated a genuine interest in learning how to create safe spaces for gender exploration in the preschool classroom. These findings have led to the creation of a professional development series designed to educate preschool teachers about gender identity development, provide them with opportunities to develop curricula, and allow them to reflect upon their cisgender-related biases. Educators, administrators, and policymakers may find it useful to apply the results of this study and resultant project when creating educational programs and college-level curricula and policies. The results could also help educators create affirmative educational environments for all children, regardless of their biological sex, gender identity, or gender expression.