IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Gender and sexuality issues remain problematic in English language teaching, IOE academic argues

24 April 2019

Issues of gender and sexuality remain problematic in English language teaching and education more generally, UCL Institute of Education (IOE) academic Dr John Gray has argued in a keynote lecture.

Man cutout on blue background and woman cutout on pink background

Speaking at the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL) annual conference in Liverpool, UK, Dr Gray claimed that despite limited progress in certain domains, English language teaching materials, English language tests and many teacher education courses continue to reproduce and reinforce heteronormativity – the idea that institutions and actions produce heterosexuality as natural and necessary.

Dr Gray expanded on this, explaining that this denies recognition to those students who are gender and sexuality non-conforming, ignores those who are questioning their gender identity or their sexual orientation, and fails to educate all students about the complexity of the world.

The keynote explored what can be done to remedy this. One route is the case for inclusive education in which previously erased groups are given recognition. However, drawing on examples of how this has been done, Dr Gray suggested there are pitfalls to such an approach being thoughtlessly applied. Contrasting inclusive education with queer pedagogy, he suggested that queer pedagogy could be more appropriate for teachers working in those parts of the world where inclusivity is taboo.

Considered more radical than inclusive education, queer pedagogy seeks to problematise heteronorms and encourages students to question them and the uses to which they are put.

The International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL) annual conference took place from 2-5 April 2019, bringing together 3000 English language teaching professionals from around the world.