Self-Fulfilling Teacher Expectations in the Context of Ethnic Educational Inequalities

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 5:30 PM
Room: Booth 42
Oral Presentation
Georg LORENZ , Chair for Sociology, especially Analysis of Social Structures, Otto-Friedrich-University Bamberg, Bamberg, Germany
The role of teacher expectations in pupils’ achievements has been heavily researched during the past 50 years. Experimental research as well as analyses of field data stemming mainly from the US showed that low expectations can undermine academic performance whereas high expectations can have positive effects on learning opportunities and on the pupils’ academic future. Another line of research suggests that teachers often have lower expectations for the academic performance of children from low socioeconomic status and/or immigrant or minority background. If such low expectations create self-fulfilling prophecies by leading to behavior that undermines intellectual growth, they could be regarded as a subtle type of discrimination contributing to the widening of the achievement gap between more and less privileged pupils.

However, despite the fact that there is evidence speaking against discrimination in grading or track assignment against pupils with low socioeconomic background and/or immigrant background on part of teachers in Germany the role of self-fulfilling prophecies remains heavily underexplored. Whether they occur in German schools has not yet been answered. Therefore, their possible role for the emergence and maintenance of educational inequalities remains unknown.

This paper tries to shed light on the role teacher expectations play in pupils’ academic performance within German primary schools. The first part of our work is a systematization of the current state of research. On that basis we propose the application of the frame-selection model in order to theoretically explain self-fulfilling prophecies within the schooling context. In doing so we identify conditions under which biased teacher expectations for certain groups of pupils may emerge and how they may be mediated through the class-room interaction. In a final step we empirically test the hypotheses and answer whether teacher expectation effects contribute to the emergence of social and/or ethnic educational inequalities or not.