Supporting gender equality in learning: use of a sociomaterial lens to view the learning process


  • Susannah Wilson UHI Argyll, University of the Highlands and Islands



sociomaterial, gender equality, learning, environments, COVID-19


There is an emerging body of literature which explores the short-term impact that the COVID-19 pandemic had on education (e.g. Watermeyer, 2021).  This short paper responds to the increasing body of evidence which suggests that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will have a disproportionate impact in the longer term, too.  The focus of this paper is on the ways in which the global COVID-19 pandemic affected gender equality within education, particularly in the further education (FE) sector.

After the initial disruption to the delivery of education in March 2020, when the first COVID-19 lockdown in the UK took place, many learning institutions were able to welcome their learners back into physical buildings for the subsequent academic sessions.  However other institutions, particularly those within the FE and HE sectors, knew that their doors would effectively remain closed for some time, and had to devise or adapt appropriate ways of delivering education through technological means.  This paper explores the changing norms and expectations in terms of technology-enhanced learning for which the COVID-19 pandemic was a catalyst, and the impact of these on gender equality within education. 

This paper explores how the use of a sociomaterial lens to view education can further our understanding of how these issues can be mitigated.  Building on the available literature (e.g. Gourlay, 2021), it considers how viewing learning through a sociomaterial lens provides a framework within which mitigating strategies could be developed.

Finally, this paper considers how a sociomaterial lens may be used to support the educational community to further improve issues of gender equality.  This ‘On the Horizon’ piece for the ‘Breaking the Gender Bias’ Special Issue of JPAAP is a call to action, exploring future avenues for research into improving issues of gender equality within education. 

Author Biography

Susannah Wilson, UHI Argyll, University of the Highlands and Islands

Susannah Wilson is the Learning and Teaching Enhancement lead at UHI Argyll.  Her teaching responsibilities include Higher English and courses within teacher education.  Susannah is currently studying towards an EdD through the Open University, focusing on professional learning, lecturer identity and assessment in the FE learning context. 


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