The roles of socioeconomic status, ethnicity and teacher beliefs in academic grading

Doyle, Lewis, Easterbrook, Matthew and Harris, Peter (2022) The roles of socioeconomic status, ethnicity and teacher beliefs in academic grading. British Journal of Educational Psychology. pp. 1-22. ISSN 0007-0998

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Educational outcomes in the United Kingdom vary as a function of students’ family background, with those of lower socioeconomic status (SES) and certain ethnic minority groups among the worst affected.

This pre-registered study investigates: (i) whether knowledge about students’ socioeconomic and ethnic background influences teachers’ judgements about the quality of their work and potential for the future, and (ii) the role of teachers’ beliefs – most notably about meritocracy – in their practices.

Our findings are based on the responses of 416 in-service (88%) and trainee (12%) teachers who successfully passed several stringent exclusion criteria.

As part of a 2x2 independent measures design, teachers were randomly assigned to assess an identical piece of work ostensibly written by a student who varied by SES (higher vs. lower) and ethnicity (White British vs. Black Caribbean). Following this, they responded to several measures assessing their beliefs about education.

Teachers judged students of lower SES to be inferior to students of higher SES across a range of indicators. By contrast, we found no evidence of racial bias in teachers’ judgements, though potential reasons for this are discussed. Teachers who believed that schooling is meritocratic were significantly less likely to support equity-enhancing teaching practices and initiatives.

Unconscious teacher biases and beliefs may be contributing to the relative underperformance of students from poorer backgrounds. These findings provide a mandate for educational institutions to help teachers reflect upon, and develop the skills required to mitigate potentially harmful biases.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Education inequality, Teacher bias, Socioeconomic status, Ethnicity, Meritocracy
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 11 Aug 2022 09:35
Last Modified: 23 Sep 2022 11:45

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