Author: GLE Team | Published on 1 August 2023


Your classroom environment can have a huge impact on your learners. In this tip you will explore how to implement a gender responsive classroom environment. 

Stage 1: Set Up and Learner Needs

Think about how the room that your lessons take place in supports the needs of both male and female learners. Consider the following questions: 

  • Does your classroom set up encourage males and females to mix (if culturally appropriate) and learn alongside each other?
  • Does your classroom set up encourage the participation of male and female learners?
  • Do male and female learners sit in a balanced way across the room? 
  • Is there an appropriate number of desks and seating furniture? Is it shared fairly?
  • Are the learning materials and other fixtures on display positive, inclusive and free from gender stereotypes or harmful messaging? 
  • Do you notice behaviour among your pupils which connects to gender equality?

Stage 2: Mix things up 

Change things around in your classroom to see which type of set up encourages learners to participate equally. Learners who sit further away from the teacher may do so because they are shy or uncomfortable and then as a result, they may be less likely to become involved in the lesson. Social norms in some contexts encourage girls to be quieter in group situations and contribute less, this may be exacerbated if they sit further away from the teacher. 

Mix things up in your classroom set up by: 

  • Ask the learners to work in smaller groups, mixed genders if possible. Change the groups regularly to allow all learners to work with one another as well as to providing learner of different genders the opportunity to take on different roles within the group. Rotate the leadership roles between learners of different genders frequently. Ensure you provide or develop guidance/norms for group work to ensure inclusive participation of learners of all genders. 
  • If you are talking or providing input, move around the room, don’t stay in the same place. 
  • If possible and needed, source the appropriate amount and size of classroom furniture. 
  • Ask learners to sit in a circle.
  • Take learning outside or into a different space where safe and appropriate. 

Stage 3: Repeat and Evaluate 

Keep trying different classroom setups to encourage the equal participation of learners of all genders, female, male and other. See which ones encourage learners who may be quieter and less engaged to participate. Ask your learners which set ups they prefer and why. As the teacher you are the main facilitator of various interactions in your classroom. The set-up of your room should promote the optimal participation of learners of all genders as well as being sensitive to learner needs and frequently seeking their input and preferences.

Want to know more about the GLE Team?

In a groundbreaking initiative, the British Council, under the English Connects programme, undertook a transformative mission to champion gender-inclusive practices in Sub-Saharan Africa with a cohort of 41 dedicated teacher educators and teachers from Ethiopia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Sudan. This dynamic group referred to as the GLE Team worked together to design this resource.

Read about our Creating Gender Pedagogy Resources for Teachers project: