The Effects of Student and Teacher Characteristics on Teacher Impressions of – and Responses to – Student Behaviors

  •  Amity Noltemeyer    
  •  Claire Kunesh    
  •  Cody Hostutler    
  •  Patrick Frato    
  •  Brianna Sarr-Kerman    


This study examined how student characteristics (e.g., race, gender) and teacher characteristics (e.g., race, gender, years of experience, confidence in behavior management) influence the way teachers perceive and respond to student behaviors in the U.S.A. A rigorous process was used to develop and pilot a survey consisting of questions about a defiant student behavioral incident that might be encountered in a school. This process involved systematically identifying student names that would imply different gender/ethnicity combinations, creating the instrument using these names, expert review, cognitive interviews, and a pilot study using 135 pre-service teachers. After refining the instrument based on feedback from each of these activities, we administered it to 57 practicing teachers. Participants were randomly assigned to one of four scenario conditions, each of which implied a student with a different gender/ethnicity combination (i.e., African American female student, African American male student, European American female student, European American male student).  Although some interesting trends in responding emerged based on the implied student race and ethnicity, none were statistically significant. However, teacher characteristics significantly influenced responding, with less experienced teachers being less likely to ignore behaviors – and more likely to address them directly – than their more seasoned counterparts. This adds to the extant knowledge about how teachers in different phases of their careers may interpret and approach classroom situations, and reveals implications for teacher professional development efforts. Further implications, limitations, and future directions are also discussed.

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