This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Discovering Stereotype Limbo: Exploring the Relationship between Stereotype Threat and the Professional Experiences & Identities of Male K12 Teachers




Towns-Newby, Leonard

Type of Degree



Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology


The number of men teaching in K12 settings is of significant concern. It is even more critical now because the number of men in the field has decreased to a record low of twenty-four percent. It is predicted that the number will continue to decrease over the next few years. As the gender achievement gap between girls and boys continues to widen, research has recognized that male teachers could play a major role in helping to reverse this trend. While increasing initiatives to recruit the number of men in K12 education have been a major focus of educational stakeholders, finding ways to retain men in K12 settings could help boost the number of men in the field. Examining the professional experiences of men in K12 education is the first step in developing effective recruitment and retention programs. This grounded theory study exploring the relationship between stereotype threat, stereotype boost, and male K12 teachers provided insight on the impact that gender-typing in K12 education has on male K12 teachers. Data were obtained through semi-structured in-depth interviews of seven men who taught in either primary or secondary school settings. These men were a rich source of data as they each shared unique experiences and provided unique perspectives of stereotype threat and stereotype boost. Fundamental grounded theory processes provided a strict systematic approach to data collection, analysis, and synthesis of data leading to the emergence of the four axial categories: commitment, occupational efficacy, stereotype threat, and stereotype boost. The four axial categories make up the core category of stereotype limbo, an identity crisis brought on by the expectation to meet stereotypical roles that do not match ones core values. The participants in the study experienced stereotype limbo as they matriculated through the profession. More specifically, upon making a commitment to the field, participants were challenged to meet the requirements of strict educational policies, homogenous teaching practices, and gender-typed social norms which led to stereotype limbo. While in limbo, participants either fought the idea to assimilate, left or made arrangements to leave the field, disidentified with the field, or assimilated.