Is it important to acknowledge students’ diversity in classroom settings? Why or why not?
Page 2: Influence of Teacher Perceptions
Teacher perceptions—the thoughts or mental images teachers have about their students—are shaped by their background knowledge and life experiences. These experiences might involve their family history or tradition, education, work, culture, or community. All of these and more contribute to an individual’s personal lens and how he or she views others. How does your personal lens influence your perceptions? Watch the First Thoughts/Digging Deeper movie below. During the first part of the movie, take a few seconds to write down the two or three thoughts or images that initially come to mind about each word. Continue watching to further reflect on your responses (time: 4:50).
Why Perceptions Matter
Even when individuals have little information about another, they naturally form perceptions about them, some of which might be based on stereotypes. This tendency can lead to misperceptions. Jill Smith, a practicum student, is working in a diverse classroom. Her university supervisor is observing Jill as she conducts whole-group instruction. Later, the supervisor offers observations and feedback about Jill’s instruction. One of the things she points out is the way Jill responded differently to different groups of students.
Note to Teachers: Despite the increasing racial and ethnic diversity of students over the past twenty years, the racial and ethnic make-up of teachers remain predominately White.
I noticed that when you called on Hispanic or African American students you generally did not provide enough wait time for them to respond. When they did provide the correct answer, you simply said, “yes” and moved on. In contrast, when you called on the White and Asian students, you provided adequate time for them to respond and sometimes prompted them. You even praised them for their responses. I think we should talk about your perceptions and how they might be influencing your expectations for the students.
Jill’s supervisor suspects that Jill has developed some misperceptions about her students’ abilities based on racial and ethnic stereotypes. Although teachers might unknowingly form such misperceptions, when they become aware of this tendency and of their own personal lens, they can respond to their students more objectively. They can identify different viewpoints and get a much clearer picture of who their students really are. Teachers should realize that their perceptions—and misperceptions—can positively or negatively shape their expectations for students. This, in turn, can influence students’ performance in the classroom.
As research has shown, when teachers have high expectations, students are more likely to demonstrate high academic achievement. In contrast, when teachers have low expectations, students do not perform up to their potential. The table below lists some teacher behaviors that might demonstrate either high or low expectations.
|Give longer wait time after asking a question||Give little or no wait time|
|Provide more prompts and cues to shape student responses||Move on to another student if a student gives an incorrect answer|
|Offer specific feedback||Offer minimal feedback (e.g., “Incorrect,” “Wrong”)|
|Create more opportunities to learn and practice new skills||Provide fewer opportunities to learn and practice new skills|
|Provide more positive reinforcement||Provide less reinforcement|
In a seminal study of teacher expectations, researchers randomly assigned students from disadvantaged backgrounds to either an experimental group or a control group, telling teachers that the experimental group of students had high potential. At the end of the study:
- The “high-potential students” outperformed the control group. This has become known as the Pygmalion effect, a type of self-fulfilling prophecy.
- Even when students in the control group improved their performance, their teachers did not acknowledge or praise their increase in achievement.
(Rosenthal & Jacobson, 1968)
Students whose teachers have high expectations for them perform better on achievement tests than do students for whom teachers have low expectations.
- Teacher expectations were higher for European-American and Asian-American students than for African-American and Latino students with similar achievement levels.
(McKown & Weinstein, 2008)
As mentioned above, our experiences influence our perceptions, but finding out how they do so takes effort and reflection. Use the questionnaire to explore the following questions:
- How similar are your own experiences to those of your students?
- How might these similarities affect your perceptions of your students?
- What perceptions do you have of your students’ race/ ethnicity, cultural diversity, linguistic differences, disabilities, or socioeconomic status?
- How might these perceptions influence your instruction and your students’ learning?
|Click on the appropriate descriptor to complete the following statements about your experiences as a high school student.||Click on the appropriate descriptor to complete the following statements about the students in your current school.|
|The student population in my high school was primarily
|The student population in my current school is primarily
|The teachers in my high school presented multicultural viewpoints about historical and current events
|The teachers in my current school present multicultural viewpoints about historical and current events
|The student population in my high school spoke primarily
|The student population in my current school speaks primarily
|The student population in my high school included students with disabilities(check all that apply)
|The student population in my current school includes students with disabilities(check all that apply)
|My family’s socioeconomic status (SES) was
|My students’ socioeconomic status (SES) is (check all that apply)