Key Takeaway: Teacher attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions are critical in how they have the potential to contribute to or reduce educational inequalities. —Matt Piercy

Kate M. Turetsky, Stacey Sinclair, Jordan G. Starck, and J. Nicole Shelton (2021) investigated psychological contributors to educational inequality and the far-reaching impact of teacher psychology. Teachers’ gender-biased perceptions, fixed mindsets, and disparate assessment were all examined. Systematic factors (ie. socio-economic and racial/ethnic disparities), the broader educational system and society, and parents all factor into educational inequalities. However, a field of research is burgeoning in how teacher psychology also plays a pivotal role. Further, changing teachers’ attitudes, perceptions, or beliefs is essential.

The authors investigated two significant questions:

  1. Which teacher attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs contribute to educational inequality?
  2. How does teacher psychology exacerbate or mitigate educational inequality?

Here are the major takeaways from the article:

  • Research confirms how teachers often hold more negative perceptions and expectations of students from marginalized groups but also assess them more negatively compared with advantaged groups. This disparate assessment is evidenced across several nations including New Zealand,1 Sweden,2 Brazil,3 Germany,4 and the United States.5 Patterns of such disparities, including high-stakes national exams, are evidenced by comparisons with blind evaluations.
  • Teachers overestimating students led to larger gains in math standardized test scores. Whereas underestimation predicted smaller gains. These effects strengthened as students increased in age and were larger for girls of all races and also Black and Latino boys.6
  • No substantive change in mathematics achievement or a narrowing of the gender gap was noted from 1999 to 2011. This is attributed to teacher gender-biased perceptions of ability between boys and girls in grade school.7,8
  • The authors cite a US university-wide study where 150 STEM professors and more than 15,000 students revealed how courses led by faculty with a fixed versus growth mindset led to a racial achievement gap.9
  • Focusing intervention on teachers may reduce educational inequalities even without specifically targeting students. Blind grading is one recommended strategy but also teacher training programs where high-quality instruction emphasizes the importance of engaging all students.10

Summarized Article:

Turetsky, K. M., Sinclair, S., Starck, J. G., & Shelton, J. N. (2021). Beyond students: how teacher psychology shapes educational inequality. Trends in Cognitive Sciences.

Summary by: Matt Piercy — Matt appreciates how at the heart of the MARIO Framework is a passion to develop relationships and a desire to empower students to uncover their purpose while building upon strengths. Further, Matt is inspired by how the MARIO team supports educators and is quickly and nobly becoming a collaborative force in pursuit of educational equity.

Additional References:

1. Meissel, K., Meyer, F., Yao, E. S., & Rubie-Davies, C. M. (2017). Subjectivity of teacher judgments: Exploring student characteristics that influence teacher judgments of student ability. Teaching and Teacher Education, 65, 48-60.

2. Hinnerich, B. T., Höglin, E., & Johannesson, M. (2015). Discrimination against students with foreign backgrounds: Evidence from grading in Swedish public high schools. Education Economics, 23(6), 660-676.

3. Burgess, S., & Greaves, E. (2013). Test scores, subjective assessment, and stereotyping of ethnic minorities. Journal of Labor Economics, 31(3), 535-576.

4. Sprietsma, M. (2013). Discrimination in grading: Experimental evidence from primary school teachers. Empirical economics, 45(1), 523-538. 

5. Glock, S. (2016). Does ethnicity matter? The impact of stereotypical expectations on in-service teachers’ judgments of students. Social Psychology of Education, 19(3), 493-509.

6. Jamil, F. M., Larsen, R. A., & Hamre, B. K. (2018). Exploring longitudinal changes in teacher expectancy effects on children’s mathematics achievement. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 49(1), 57-90.

7. Robinson-Cimpian, J. P., Lubienski, S. T., Ganley, C. M., & Copur-Gencturk, Y. (2014). Teachers’ perceptions of students’ mathematics proficiency may exacerbate early gender gaps in achievement. Developmental psychology, 50(4), 1262.

8. Cimpian, J. R., Lubienski, S. T., Timmer, J. D., Makowski, M. B., & Miller, E. K. (2016). Have gender gaps in math closed? Achievement, teacher perceptions, and learning behaviors across two ECLS-K cohorts. AERA Open, 2(4), 2332858416673617.

9. Canning, E. A., Muenks, K., Green, D. J., & Murphy, M. C. (2019). STEM faculty who believe ability is fixed have larger racial achievement gaps and inspire less student motivation in their classes. Science advances, 5(2), eaau4734.

Key Takeaway:  Students with a deep approach to learning tend to have character traits associated with openness, conscientiousness, and a “steady temperament.” Educators can focus on fostering these traits in the classroom to increase students’ self-awareness and self-management skills, which students use to motivate themselves, set achievable personal and academic goals, and develop a growth mindset. —Shekufeh Monadjem

In the first study of its kind, the author Paulo Moreira, together with a group of researchers, investigated how different personality traits influenced students’ attitudes towards learning. The research was conducted with a study group of 686 adolescents with different approaches to learning.  

Two major approaches to learning were identified—the deep approach and the surface approach. 

The Deep Approach: “When a student adopts a deep approach to an academic task, this is to say that their underlying guiding intention is to maximize intellectual understanding and extract meaning from the task. There is also an intrinsic motivation to learn.” The qualities of openness, conscientiousness, and a “steady temperament” have also been linked to personalities that show a deep approach. Studies have shown a positive association between the deep approach and academic performance.1,2 

The Surface Approach: Academic performance is typically lower in those students who display a surface approach to their learning.3.4 “When a student adopts a surface approach, the guiding motivation is extrinsic to the task. The resulting strategies for a given task under this approach, such as rote learning, are characterized by low investment and low effort.”

Furthemore, other traits were identified in the study group:

  • Novelty seeking—seeking new experiences with intense emotional sensations
  • Harm avoidance—a tendency to respond intensely to negative stimuli
  • Reward dependance—a positive response and maintenance of behaviour in response to rewards
  • Persistence—the tendency to continue with a behaviour despite the absence of a reward

Students identified as having a deep approach to learning showed low harm avoidance, low novelty seeking, and high persistence, as well as high cooperativeness and high self-directedness. Whereas, those that adopted a surface approach to their learning showed an opposite pattern of high harm avoidance and low self-directedness as well as neuroticism. These self-regulatory aspects of personality are important for helping students gain a more adaptive approach to learning. 

Students showing high persistence in their personalities were also found to be “ambitious, enthusiastic, and tireless overachievers.”5 

Because character is changeable, it can be developed and improved with the help of interventions to gain a more mature outlook. Adolescents with a mature character might be described as “responsible, resourceful, socially tolerant, empathic, principled, patient, and creative.”6 “Consequently, one practical implication of the study is that teachers and schools may be able to use character-development interventions with certain types of students, (i.e., those with a steady temperament profile) to encourage more adaptive approaches to learning and their associated positive academic outcomes.”

Mindfulness-based interventions are also an option that can be used to influence students to strengthen self-esteem and sense of mastery (i.e., self-directedness). Likewise, the results of the study also suggested that different types of interventions would be effective for students with different personality types. Educator awareness of character traits associated with deep learning allows for evidence-informed interventions focusing on fostering these traits to be harnessed in the classroom. 

Article Summarized

Moreira, P. A., Inman, R. A., Rosa, I., Cloninger, K., Duarte, A., & Robert Cloninger, C. (2021). The psychobiological model of personality and its association with student approaches to learning: Integrating temperament and character. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 65(4), 693-709.

Summary by: Shekufeh Monadjem—Shekufeh believes that the MARIO Framework builds relationships that enables students to view the world in a positive light as well as enabling them to create plans that ultimately lead to their success.

Additional References:

  1. Richardson, M., Abraham, C., & Bond, R. (2012). Psychological correlates of university students’ academic performance: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 138(2), 353–387. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0026838
  2. Watkins, D. (2001). Correlates of approaches to learning: A cross-cultural meta-analysis. In R. J. Sternberg, & L. F.
  3. Diseth, A. (2003). Personality and approaches to learning as predictors of academic achievement. European Journal of Personality, 17(2), 143–155. https://doi.org/10.1002/per.469 
  4. Diseth, A. (2013). Personality as an indirect predictor of academic achievement via student course experience and approach to learning. Social Behavior and Personality, 41(8), 1297–1308. https://doi.org/10.2224/sbp.2013.41.8. 1297
  5. Cloninger, C. R., Zohar, A. H., Hirschmann, S., & Dahan, D. (2012). The psychological costs and benefits of being highly persistent: Personality profiles distinguish mood disorders from anxiety disorders. Journal of Affective Disorders, 136(3), 758–766.
  6. Cloninger, C. R. (2004). Feeling good: The science of well-being. Oxford University Press.

Key Takeaway: Findings suggest that perceived social support predicts emotional/behavioral problems in children with ASD mainly through its influence on parental resilience and parental self-efficacy. As such, developing parents’ psychosocial characteristics through the provision of resources and support, targeted parent education, and relationship-building between parents and professionals is critical to promoting the development of children with ASD. —Ashley Parnell

In this study, Lu, Chen, He, Pand, & Zou examined mechanisms underlying the association between parents’ perceived social support and children’s emotional/behavioral problems, focusing specifically on the role played by parental resilience and parent self-efficacy.

“Emotional/behavioral problems are more common in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) than in typical children, with estimates of prevalence ranging from 35.8% to 94.3%.” Given the association between parental stress and children’s emotional/behavioral problems, parents of children with ASD need and benefit from increased perceived social support. Social support was defined as “material, emotional, and informational help a person experiences from his/her network as compared to the parents of typical children.”

Studies have shown that “parents with more social support have greater resilience, parenting self-efficacy, and can improve the emotional and behavior of their children with ASD.” However, studies investigating the relationships between these psychosocial characteristics are limited.

In this particular study, 289 parents of children with ASD completed a survey comprising the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support, Resilience Scale, Parenting Sense of Competence Scale, and Difficulties Questionnaire. Results indicated that “parents’ perceived social support was significantly related to the emotional/behavior problems in children with ASD and that this relationship was mediated by a series of associations between parental resilience and parent self-efficacy, among which higher resilience is associated with higher self-efficacy.” Analysis indicates that perceived social support predicts emotional/behavioral problems in children with ASD mainly through its influence on parental resilience and parental self-efficacy.

In other words the association between perceived social support and emotional/behavioral problems is greater when parental resilience and parental self-efficacy are taken into account. Additionally, parental resilience and parents’ self-efficacy were found to play a chain-mediating role in the relationship between parents’ perceived social support and emotional/behavioral problems in children with ASD.

Findings indicate that “it is crucial to improve parents’ perceived social support, parental resilience, and parents’ self-efficacy to reduce emotional/behavioral problems in children with ASD.”

To best promote the development of children with ASD, we must: 

  1. Ensure accessibility to various types of support for parents.
  2. Help parents form relationships with professionals.
  3. Proactively attend to the education of parents.

Specifically, Das et al. states, “social organizations should establish social support networks and professional centers (e.g., at school, children’s centers, mobile clinics, etc.) to give parents different types of support (e.g., remote medical treatment, community health workers, specialist education teachers and psychologists).”1 Focus should also be placed on the education of parents, ensuring that parents are equipped with strategies, knowledge, and techniques that enable them to better address the needs of the children with ASD.

Summarized Article:

Lu, M., Chen, J., He, W., Pang, F., & Zou, Y. (2021). Association between perceived social support of parents and emotional/behavioral problems in children with ASD: A chain mediation model. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 113, 103933

Summary by: Ashley M. Parnell — Ashley strives to apply the MARIO Framework to build evidence-based learning environments that support student engagement, empowerment, and passion and is working with a team of educators to grow and share this framework with other educators.

Additional References

  1. Das, S., Das, B., Nath, K., Dutta, A., Bora, P., & Hazarika, M. (2017). Impact of stress, coping, social support, and resilience of families having children with autism: A North East India-based study. Asian journal of psychiatry, 28, 133-139.