Doing gender in physiotherapy education: a critical pedagogic approach to understanding how students construct gender identities in an undergraduate physiotherapy programme in the United Kingdom

Hammond, John A. (2013) Doing gender in physiotherapy education: a critical pedagogic approach to understanding how students construct gender identities in an undergraduate physiotherapy programme in the United Kingdom. (Ed.D thesis), Kingston University.

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Gender in physiotherapy education is somewhat ambiguous. Physiotherapy is historically a women’s profession, yet in recent decades there has been a growing proportion of men. The mass media portrays a masculine sporty image of physiotherapy, which notably ignores the presence of women. Previous research in physiotherapy education has shown gender differences in student preferences for work and career pathways. Gender differences in attainment in practice components of the course have also been demonstrated, with men doing less well than women and more likely to fail. As a physiotherapy educator faced with these issues, the aim of this study is to explore the significance of gender in students’ constructions of identity. Social constructionism was adopted as an underpinning theory in this professional practice research involving students from one cohort of undergraduate physiotherapy students at a university in the south east of England. Nine male and female participants were interviewed at the beginning of their second year and were asked to record stories about their experiences both on and off campus throughout the academic year using a digital recording device. Data from the interviews and audio-diary narratives were analysed using Judith Butler’s theorisation of gender as ‘performative’ to understand how gender identities were constructed. Foucauldian and critical pedagogical perspectives were employed to further interrogate the gender discourses that emerged. The findings indicate that gender was rarely explicitly discussed; yet participants’ gender identities were constantly negotiated through relationships that were not limited to the university and clinical settings. A range of discourses of masculinity and femininity were identified illustrating a profound gender orthodoxy in physiotherapy education that simultaneously demanded acceptance, assimilation or resistance. As a consequence, students in this study used a number of discursive strategies in the struggle to be recognised within physiotherapy education and practice. The implications from these findings raise questions about gender tensions and contradictions in the physiotherapy programme under scrutiny and about the pedagogic practices that reinforce them. In this context, there is a need to raise awareness amongst peers and managers of the possible sites of gender inequalities within this curriculum. Also, gender needs to come ‘out of the closet’ and be debated within the classroom and the wider social spaces inhabited by students in order to develop more nuanced understandings of gender within physiotherapy and healthcare. Finally this research indicates the need to provide more inclusive spaces within the curriculum for reflecting on the complexity of identity construction and for challenging its institutional forms.

Item Type: Thesis (Ed.D)
Additional Information: In partnership with the University of Roehampton
Physical Location: This item is held in stock at Kingston University library.
Research Area: Education
Health services research
Faculty, School or Research Centre: Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education
Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education > School of Education (from January 2013)
Depositing User: Niki Wilson
Date Deposited: 09 Jan 2014 11:11
Last Modified: 27 Oct 2014 15:41

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