LP 8: Enculturation

This lesson plan is for the content area: Enculturation.  The guide gives us very little information about how we should approach this topic.  The questions that may be asked are rather limited: Discuss enculturation; Evaluate research on enculturation; Explain one study of enculturation.

I use this as an opportunity to discuss gender development.  Enculturation is the manner in which we learn the behaviours that are appropriate for our own culture, so understanding how we adopt the "appropriate" gender behaviours for our culture is done through enculturation.  The relevant section in the textbook is called Culture and identity - and you will see the link on the page for the section on gender identity.  This short lesson has students apply both Social Cognitive Theory and Schema Theory in order to address the learning objective.


Task 1: Getting started

To start show students the following video.

Have them discuss why they think that the children reacted the way they did. Where do children learn their gender stereotypes and gender roles?

Enculturation: the role of schema

Enculturation is the process of how we adopt the behaviours that are the norm for our culture.

Start by asking students how they think that they learned to be a "boy" or a "girl." You might want to do this through thought-books to encourage reflection, or through chalk talk to see the diversity of responses that students come up with. If it is done in open sharing, then keep a running list of ideas so that you can come back to them at the end of the lesson.

Show students the following video:

Is this a good study?  What does it tell us about how we are enculturated to our gender roles?

The task

Before having them complete the worksheet, you should review social cognitive learning theory with them. The theory argues that gender behaviour is learned through observation, imitation and shaping - that is, feedback that is perceived as either reward or punishment. You may want to remind them of Bashing Bobo and how the boys were more likely to imitate the male model - and that the comments from the boys when watching the female model was "Ladies are not supposed to fight like that." According to Martin & Halvorson, children actively seek out information to help them develop a schema of what their gender should be.  You may want to point out that stereotypes are a type of schema.

Pass out the following handout.

Gender enculturation worksheet

Have students work in pairs to complete the worksheet.  When they have finished, here are some potential responses for the evaluation of the studies.

Martin & Halvorson (1983)

The experiment is easily replicated, allowing for reliability.

Children were brought back a week later; it is difficult to control for extraneous variables.

The idea that children are "actively seeking out information about their gender" cannot be measured or verified.

Martin et al (1995)

The experiment is easily replicated.

The experiment is highly controlled, allowing for internal validity.

This is very specific to a four-year old's development of theory of mind.  This may not indicate the results that we think it does.
Fagot (1978)

Method triangulation - both interviews and observations.  Increases the credibility of the findings.

Limited to a single culture.  Difficulty of generalization.
Williams (1986)

A natural experiment - so high in ecological validity.

Change was observed over time  - pre-test, post-test design

This study cannot be replicated.

This study is also dated; we cannot know the extent to which the content of what was watched may have influenced the children.

Children were also two years older at the time of the post-test.  This alone may have played a role in their behaviour.

When you have finished, you may want to have them answer the questions in this powerpoint

ATL: International understanding

All of the research above was done in the West.  The following video looks at a "third gender" in Samoan and Polynesian culture - the fa'fafine.  Have them watch the video and then discuss whether they think that the enculturation of gender roles in Samoa is similar or different to Western enculturation of gender roles. What role do parents play in our gender development?

Evaluation of SCT to explain gender enculturation

  • The theory helps to explain the rigidity of gender stereotypes held by children.
  • Support for the concept of "self-socialization" - that is, that children actively seek out information about their gender, is vague and unmeasurable.
  • The theory does not help explain children who do not conform to a community's gender norms.
  • Biological factors are not taken into account. Whenever we look at a single approach without considering the interaction of the other approaches, we have a limited explanation of human behaviour.
  • The majority of caregivers are still women. This means that boys and girls have a very similar experience in their development. SCT does not account for this. Based on SCT's argument, children's gender identity should overall be more feminine. This shows the importance of peers and other socializing factors.
  • Media is difficult to assess because children tend to watch gender-based shows. They are not watching the same shows. Overall, content analysis of what is on television does not necessarily correlate with what boys or girls are watching.
  • Studies are often correlational, leading to the question of bidirectional ambiguity.
  • Although there are some striking cultural differences - remember our look at Fafafini at the beginning of this lesson - what is more striking is that gender is rather consistent around the world. The similarities are more notable than the differences. Differences are often the result of local resources.
  • There is the problem of the operationalization of culture as a variable in a globalized and Internet-connected world.
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