Exploring the Impact of an Anti-Homophobia and Anti-Transphobia Program on a Teacher Education Program: LGBTQ Pre-Service Teachers Identify Benefits and Challenges


  • Jennifer Mitton St. Francis Xavier University
  • Joanne Tompkins St. Francis Xavier University
  • Laura-Lee Kearns St. Francis Xavier University




Anti-oppressive pedagogical practices that counter the marginalization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit, queer, and/or questioning youth continue to foster new understanding in teacher education. Researchers note that many pre-service teachers are not prepared to address classroom concerns regarding homophobia, heterosexism, and cisnormativity, fail to identify biases in curricular materials, and resist ideas related to the intersectionality of race, class, ethnicity, gender, ability, and sexuality. While Canadian teacher education programs generally espouse a commitment to equity education, there continues to be a need to provide explicit education on how to create safe and inclusive classrooms and schools for LGBTQ+ learners. The voices of LGBTQ+ pre-service teacher educators are particularly important in terms of understanding what challenges are reduced or remain in teacher education programs adopting an anti-homophobic and anti-transphobic stance. Results from our ongoing work suggests that when faculties of education advocate for safe and positive climates, LGBTQ+ pre-service teachers can bring their full selves into the program. In this article, we explore how the anti-oppressive training related to LGBTQ+ learners and inclusive curricula impacted the experiences of pre-service LGBTQ+ teachers in our program, as presented through their perceptions of who they were in the program, their concerns about who they might be in schools, and their suggestions for acknowledging and implementing anti-oppressive education in formal and informal educational spaces.

Key words: Pre-service teacher education; LGBTQ+ teacher candidates; LGBTQ+-inclusive curriculum; anti-oppressive pedagogy; gender identity, and sexual orientation.

Les pratiques anti-oppressives pédagogiques qui combattent la marginalisation de jeunes personnes lesbiennes, gaies, bisexuelles, transgenres, bispirituelles, allosexuelles ou en questionnement (LGBTQ+) continuent à favoriser une nouvelle conception de la formation des enseignants. Les chercheurs notent que plusieurs enseignants en formation ne sont pas prêts à traiter des questions en classe qui portent sur l’homophobie, l’hétérosexisme et la cisnormativité; ne savent pas reconnaitre les préjugés dans le matériel pédagogique; et résistent aux idées liées à l’intersectionalité de la race, la classe, l’ethnicité, le genre, la capacité et la sexualité. Alors que les programmes de formation des enseignants au Canada adhèrent de manière générale à un engagement envers l’éducation équitable, le besoin de fournir une éducation explicite sur la création de classes et d’écoles sécuritaires pour les apprenants LGBTQ+ persiste. Les voix des formateurs LGBTQ+ d’enseignants sont particulièrement importantes pour comprendre les défis qui sont amoindris et les défis qui subsistent dans les programmes de formation d’enseignants qui adoptent une position anti-homophobe et anti-transphobe. Les résultats de notre travail en cours portent à croire que lorsque les facultés d’éducation préconisent un climat sécuritaire et positif, les enseignants LGBTQ+ en formation ont l’occasion d’être authentiques et entiers dans le programme. Dans cet article, nous explorons l’impact qu’a eu la formation anti-oppressive en lien avec les apprenants LGBTQ+ et un curriculum inclusif sur les expériences des enseignants en formation dans notre programme, tel que révélé par leurs perceptions de la personne qu’ils étaient dans le programme, leurs préoccupations quant à la personne qu’ils pourraient être dans les écoles et leurs suggestions portant sur la reconnaissance et la mise en œuvre d’une éducation anti-oppressive dans des milieux éducatifs formels et informels.

Mots clés : formation des enseignants; enseignants LGBTQ+ en formation; curriculum inclusif des personnes LGBTQ+; pédagogie anti-oppressive; identité de genre; orientation sexuelle

Author Biographies

Jennifer Mitton, St. Francis Xavier University

Dr. Jennifer Mitton is an Associate Professor of assessment, literacy, and qualitative research methods in the Faculty of Education at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia. Dr. Mitton previously taught in the School of English Language and Graduate School of Education at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey. Prior to university teaching, she taught in secondary schools in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Turkey. Her research interests include adolescent literacies, disciplinary literacies, classroom assessment, pre-service teachers and LGBTQ education, teachers as researchers, and teacher/student experiences in in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program. Her research articles are published in various journals including articles in Professional Development in Education, Learning Landscapes, the McGill Journal of Education, and the Australian Journal of Teacher Education. In addition to her scholarship, Dr. Mitton works closely with Nova Scotian teachers as part of professional outreach initiatives and presently serves as the Chair of the Nova Scotia Inter-University Doctoral Studies in Educational Studies Administrative Committee.

Joanne Tompkins, St. Francis Xavier University

Joanne Tompkins is a Professor in the Faculty of Education at StFX University, Canada.  Joanne worked in Nunavut from 1982-1996 and her book, Teaching in a Cold and Windy Place: Change in an Inuit School (1998), details one school’s decolonizing journey. Equity, decolonization and social justice in schooling are themes that have been Joanne’s teaching, research and service foci for over two decades. As a teacher educator she has been active in developing teacher capacity within both Mi’kmaw and Inuit educators. At the pre-service and in-service level, Joanne teaches foundation courses which challenge power imbalances in schools. Two of these mandatory courses, Sociology of Education and Inclusive Practices 1 offer the Positive Space Training Program to all pre-service teachers. This course is team planned and team and Joanne has taught this course with Dr. Kearns and Dr. Mitton. It is  out of that teacher partnership that the collective interest in researching Canadian pre-service and in-service teachers’ experiences challenging homophobia and transphobia in schools grew. From 2011 to 2107 Dr. Tompkins served as Chair of the Department of Leadership and Curriculum. 

Laura-Lee Kearns, St. Francis Xavier University

Laura-Lee Bellehumeur Kearns, PhD (OISE/University of Toronto), is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education at Saint Francis Xavier University. A former primary and secondary school teacher in Canada and abroad, her teaching and research reflect her interest in exploring the stories and knowledge of historically marginalized people (whether that be due to race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, language), with a view of encouraging a more equitable present and future. Her research publications may be found in the Canadian Journal of Education, Journal of the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies, The McGill Journal of Education, Race, Ethnicity and Education, Journal of Aesthetic Education, and the Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education. Her focus on social justice also stems from the commitment to the Métis Nation of Ontario, of which she is a member, and Indigenous people and decolonization. Her book chapters may be found in Métis in Canada, Diverse spaces: Examining identity, heritage and community within Canadian public culture, Honouring our Teachers, and the forthcoming Métis Rising.





How to Cite

Mitton, J., Tompkins, J., & Kearns, L.-L. (2021). Exploring the Impact of an Anti-Homophobia and Anti-Transphobia Program on a Teacher Education Program: LGBTQ Pre-Service Teachers Identify Benefits and Challenges. Alberta Journal of Educational Research, 67(1), 32–52. https://doi.org/10.11575/ajer.v67i1.56915