Before we define equity pedagogy, let’s share some relevant research.
There have been a number of important studies which indicate that a teacher's perceptions of students can influence their teaching. In 1968, * Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson published a famous study, Pygmalion in the Classroom, which had profound effects upon the practice of teaching. In their study, they provided teachers in an elementary school with undocumented information about several students in their classes. The researchers actually told these teachers the names of specific students who were given a test prior to school which revealed that they were “late bloomers”. Moreover, the teachers were told that they should expect these designated students to make significant academic gains during the year. By the end of the year, these identified “late blooming” students did, in fact, make significant achievement gains. In the study, Rosenthal and Jacobson argued that the achievement gains were not necessarily based on the ability of their students. They posited that these gains occurred because (a) teachers believed that these designated students would do well and (b) thus were treated differently from the other students in the class. Hence teacher expectations can lead to self-fulfilling prophesies.
Although their study has been criticized by some members of the research community, other researchers like **Thomas Good and Jere Brophy (1987) have found that some teachers do provide differential treatments to students based on their perceptions of a pupil’s race, class, and gender. Accordingly their research revealed the following results:
If students are perceived by their teachers to be low-achieving because of race, class or gender (as compared with students perceived by teachers to be high-achieving) these students were treated differently in the following ways:
Students perceived to be low-achievers by their teachers were:
- criticized more
- praised less
- received briefer and less informative feedback for their questions
- given less wait time
- given answers more frequently
- not selected to answer higher level questions
- given lower level questions to answer
- given more seatwork
- assigned more lower-level academic tasks to do
- given less attention
- seated furthest away from the teacher
To mitigate against the potential harmful effects of providing differential treatments to students based on teacher perceptions of race, class and gender, equity pedagogical methods were developed.
Therefore, equity pedagogical methods are specific teacher practices that are intentionally designed to increase and vary student participation in the classroom.
In future posts we will share some of those equity pedagogical practices which enable all students to have a fair opportunity to contribute their ideas in the classroom.
On the next post we will describe our first equity pedagogical practice, Think-Pair-Share.
* Rosenthal, R. & Jacobson, L (1968). Pygmalion in the Classroom, NY: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
** Good, T. & Brophy, J. (1987). Looking in the Classrooms. (Fourth Edition). NY: Harper and Row.