The influence of student ethnicity on teacher expectations and teacher perceptions of student warmth and competence
Background: Previous research shows that incorrect teacher expectations about students can affect students’ academic success. Moreover, students’ ethnicity was found to be one of the most influential characteristics affecting teacher expectations, which can be based on ethnic stereotypes. Most studies test this relationship by comparing teacher expectations of multiple ethnic groups; however, we propose here another perspective, assuming that the connection between ethnic stereotypes and expectations may be determined by the content of the stereotypes.
Objective: This study examines the influence of students’ ethnicity on teacher expectations and stereotypes, as well as the relationship of teacher expectations and stereotypes toward ethnic minority students, by including the stereotype content model in the analysis.
Design: Thirty-four primary school teachers participated in the experiment in which they analyzed six fictional profiles of students, two of which were experimental. The experimental profiles contained identical information (annual school grade, a teacher testimonial, gender), but differed in names of the students and their parents, and in their migration background. Thus, we manipulated only the information related to ethnicity and migration history of two students.
Results: Teacher expectations about the performance of minority students were always unfavorable compared with expectations about the performance of the majority students, but their expectations about the abilities of minority and majority students, which include teachers’ beliefs about students’ educational skills, attitudes and motivation, and capacity for school work, were mixed. We also discovered that the teacher expectations were positively related to perceptions of competence and not to perceptions of warmth. However, the minority student was evaluated by teachers as just as warm and competent as the majority.
Conclusion: This study shows the relevance of the problem of correct expectations of teachers toward students with different ethnic backgrounds. In contrast to the teachers’ perceptions of the warmth and competence of students, information about the ethnicity of the child influences their expectations. Meanwhile the teachers’ expectations are differently related to the various components of their stereotypes. The results raise a question about the definition and operationalization of teachers’ expectations.