07 SES 04 B, Teachers' Attitudes and Practices towards Cultural and Social Diversity
The paper reports on the results of a study carried out within the framework of the government-funded large-scale longitudinal evaluation project (NOESIS) launched in 2010 to evaluate the “New Middle School” (NMS), an Austrian school reform program at the lower secondary level, which was introduced in 2009/10 as a school trial. The main study primarily consists of a panel study that follows three cohorts of students from the end of primary school (4th grade) until the end of compulsory education (9th grade) in 16 New Middle Schools and 42 classes, covering 1500 students in each cohort, their parents and their teachers (Projektteam NOESIS, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016).
The overall goal of the NMS school reform project is to limit marginalizing processes and improve trajectories for all within an inclusive school setting. In this context, the authors conducted a sub-study focusing on trajectories of immigrant students as a specific student population known to be at risk of marginalization and exclusion in mainstream schooling. Children from ethnic minority groups are indeed part of an ever-widening achievement gap throughout Europe (OECD, 2004, 2010, 2016; Stanat & Christensen, 2006). From among various factors that may influence immigrant student trajectories, we were interested in teacher attitudes and expectations toward ethnic minorities.
Although schools and teachers explicitly acknowledge the value of ethnic diversity, a growing body of experimental evidence suggests that teachers may hold implicit stereotypes and prejudices that are largely out of their control even in the face of overtly egalitarian attitudes (McKnown & Weinstein, 2008, Dovidio, Gaertner & Validzic, 1998; Greenwald et al., 2002). Here we need to distinguish between implicit and explicit attitudes; whereas implicit attitudes apply to unconscious or preconscious aspects, explicit or overt attitudes are accessible to the consciousness and thus also controllable and changeable. Teachers may have differing expectations with regard to ethnic minority students as a function of attitudinal differences (Stiefel, Schwartz & Gould Ellen, 2007) and teachers’ attitudes can affect ethnic minority student performance and as a result their academic trajectories (van den Bergh, Denessen, Honstra, Voeten & Holland, 2010).
In this study we are interested in the relationships between teacher implicit ethnic bias, teacher differential academic expectations, and immigrant student educational aspirations. In other words, we are keen to understand, if, how, to what extent, and in which ways teachers’ implicit attitudes matter in educational trajectories of immigrant students:
(1) How does teachers’ implicit ethnic bias relate to their explicit academic expectancies?
(2) How do the educational aspirations of immigrant students of ethnically biased teachers develop through the course of the lower secondary?
Our interest in this study clearly goes beyond measuring teachers’ implicit attitudes and stereotypes for the sake of pointing to hidden prejudice. We are keen to understand if and how teachers’ implicit ethnic attitudes predict differential treatment, judgment or expectations towards their immigrant students. The focus of the analysis is, on the one hand, on the unconscious and not directly accessible attitudes of teachers, on the other hand, on the influence of teachers’ implicit bias on immigrant student trajectories in the course of secondary education.
As stated, our study is part of a larger study (NOESIS) concerned with the evaluation of the New Middle School (NMS), which was introduced in 2009/10 in lower secondary I (10- to 14-year olds) in Austria. NOESIS data was primarily collected in a panel study of three cohorts of students from the end of primary school (4th grade) until the end of compulsory education (9th grade) in 16 New Middle Schools and 42 classes, including 1500 students in each cohort, their parents and their teachers (Projektteam NOESIS, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016). Student data was collected about their perceptions of class climate, cooperation among students, teacher-students relationships and – relevant for this study – about their educational aspirations. The data for this paper was collected within a sub-study of the larger study, conducted at 11 NMS (2 were part of the panel), including 579 students and 60 form teachers of a fifth or sixth grade in the school year 2012/13. To find out about teachers’ implicit ethnic bias as it relates to teachers’ explicit academic expectancies we used the Implicit Association Test (IAT) to measure implicit attitudes, which are less susceptible to self-representation and social desirability factors and may be a better predictor of spontaneous behavior in teacher-student interactions than explicit attitude measures (Steffens, 2004). In addition to the Implicit Association Test, teachers were asked about their explicit expectations on their students through a questionnaire. Teachers were asked to provide information on the immigrant background of their students and their school performance (half-term grades). Assessments regarding current achievements (e.g. “He/she has good achievements”) as well as teacher’s expectations regarding the future achievements of the students (e.g. “He/she will have good grades at the end of the semester”, “He/she will have a successful school career”) were measured on a four-point-Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree to 4 = strongly agree). To find out about the educational aspirations of immigrant students through the course of the lower secondary we drew on questionnaire data of the major NOESIS Transition Study, in which students were interviewed annually regarding their current educational needs (e.g. “What degree of education would you like to achieve?”, “What would you like to do after school?”). Student data from the panel study was linked to the IAT teacher data and the data on teachers’ explicit expectations.
We found that the majority of the teachers (94 %) have negative ethnic bias. We also found that there are no direct relations between teachers’ implicit attitudes toward immigrants and their explicit expectations of their immigrant students. Counter-intuitively we also found that overt explicit judgements sometimes favoured students with migrant background. Our data analysis revealed that while teachers’ explicit expectations appear to have no influence on student’s career aspirations, teachers’ implicit bias does. Students with biased teachers were found to generally lose educational aspirations, especially between fifth grade and eighth grade. This drop is larger for students with a migration background. Implicit teachers’ ethnic bias seems to affect students – regardless of their migration background – and appears to significantly reduce immigrant students’ educational aspirations in the course of lower secondary education. We conclude that teachers’ attitudes matter and that teachers’ bias affects students’ educational aspirations and trajectories. While this result confirms what educationalists would perhaps intuitively endorse, we wondered about the explication of the partly contra intuitive results of the analyses. Assuming that teaching and learning are integrated into an organisational culture with implicit norms and rules (Horenczyk & Tatar, 2003), we infer that teachers’ overt favouring attitude toward immigrant students is a function of social desirability. New Middle School teachers received additional professional training courses to support teachers in handling student heterogeneity, since the NMS aims to provide an inclusive school setting to limit marginalisation and exclusion, and to emphasise diversity and individualisation as important aspects of the school culture. We attribute the egalitarian explicit expectations partly to socially desirable statements as a direct effect of the additional teacher training courses that aimed to establish an organisational culture of fair judgements (Sutton, 2004; Sutton & Harper, 2009; Sutton, Mudrey-Camino & Knight, 2009).
Greenwald, A. G., Banaji, M. R., Rudman, L. A., Farnham, S. D., Nosek, B. A., & Mellott, D. S. (2002). A unified theory of implicit attitudes, stereotypes, self–esteem, and self–concept. Psychological review, 109(1), 3–25. Horenczyk, G., & Tatar, M. (2002). Teachers’ attitudes toward multiculturalism and their perceptions of the school organizational culture. Teaching and Teacher Education, 18(4), 435–445. Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (2004). Messages from the programme for international student assessment. Paris: OECD Publishing. Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (2010). Education teachers for diversity. Meeting the challenge. Paris: OECD Publishing. Organisation for Economic Co–Operation and Development OECD. (2005). Teachers matter. Attracting, developing and retaining effective teachers. Synthesis Report. Paris: Organisation for Economic Co–Operation and Development, Directorate for Education and Training Policy Division. Projektteam NOESIS (2012). Eine Schule für alle? Zur Evaluation der Niederösterreichischen Mittelschule. Graz: Leykam. Projektteam NOESIS (2013). Die vielen Wirklichkeiten der Neuen Mittelschule. Zur Evaluation der Niederösterreichischen Mittelschule. Graz: Leykam. Projektteam NOESIS (2014). Zwischen Alltag und Aufbruch. Zur Evaluation der Niederösterreichischen Mittelschule. Graz: Leykam. Projektteam NOESIS (2015). Gute Schule bleibt verändert. Zur Evaluation der Niederösterreichischen Mittelschule. Graz: Leykam. Projektteam NOESIS (2016). Was Schulen stark macht: Zur Evaluation der Niederösterreichischen Mittelschule. Graz: Leykam. Stanat, P., & Christensen, G. (2006). Where immigrant students succeed: A comparative review of performance and engagement in PISA 2003. Paris: OECD. Stiefel, L., Schwartz, A. E., & Gould Ellen, I. (2007). Disentangling the racial test score gap: Probing the evidence in a large urban school district. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 26(1), 7–30. Sutton, R. E. (2004). Emotional regulation goals and strategies of teachers. Social Psychology of Education, 7(4), 379–398. Sutton, R. E., & Harper, E. (2009). Teachers' emotion regulation. In L. J. Saha, & A. G. Dworkin (Eds.), International handbook of research on teachers and teaching (pp. 389–401). Springer US. Sutton, R. E., & Wheatley, K. F. (2003). Teachers' emotions and teaching: A review of the literature and directions for future research. Educational psychology review, 15(4), 327–358. Sutton, R. E., Mudrey–Camino, R., & Knight, C. C. (2009). Teachers' emotion regulation and classroom management. Theory Into Practice, 48(2), 130–137. Van den Bergh, L., Denessen, E., Hornstra, L., Voeten, M., & Holland, R. W. (2010). The implicit prejudiced attitudes of teachers. Relations to teacher expectations and the ethnic achievement gap. American Educational Research Journal, 47(2), 497–527.
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