Effective Methods for Teaching Native American Students – Part V

The Effect of Teachers Attitudes and Expectations on Students Learning Love and Kruger (2005) conducted two studies on the cultural relevance of assimilationist views in working with African American students. The first study investigated the correlation of professional educator’s attitudes to their own demographic identifiers.

Professional educators in six different schools were selected for the sample (Love & Kruger, 2005). Five of the schools were located in the same southeastern city, and another lay in a different southeastern city. Four of the schools in the first city were participating in a program in partnership with a major university to evaluate their own instructional strategies. The fifth school from that city was in a program to infuse the arts into the curriculum. The sixth school that was located in another city was chosen because it had a long term commitment to outstanding inner-city education. All the schools had some level of low income students, and four of them had 95 % of students who received free and reduced lunch.

Two hundred and forty four teachers, para educators, specialists, and administrators from the six schools were chosen to participate in the study (Love & Kruger, 2005). The range of experience was from zero to thirty seven years. The participants consisted of 48% African American, 42% Caucasian, 3% Hispanic, Indian, Asian, or Biracial, and 7% of the respondents chose not to answer the question. The median age of the teachers was 38, but they ranged in age from 22 to 64. The mean level of experience was 12 years. Eighty five percent of the educators surveyed were women.

The participants read 48 statements and rated them from strongly disagree (0), to strongly agree (4) (Love & Kruger, 2005). The statements are arranged in six categories, knowledge, race and culture, social relations, the profession of teaching, teaching methods, and students’ individual needs and strengths. Twenty five of the statements aligned culturally relevant beliefs, the rest reflected assimilationist views. Culturally relevant views included a belief in students’ abilities, emphasis on cooperative learning, and the importance of the impact of race on a student’s experience. Assimilationist views do not take individual or cultural differences into account in teaching methods or goals.

The knowledge portion of the survey showed that teachers mostly strongly agreed with two culturally relevant and one assimilationist statement (Love & Kruger, 2005).

Teachers agreed that reciprocal teaching and critical thinking were essential, but they also strongly agreed (77.9% agreed or strongly agreed) that a teachers job is to “disseminate knowledge to [his or her] students” (Love & Kruger, 2005, p. 90). Teachers disagreed on a statement about expectations of children’s prior knowledge, with teachers of younger students expecting students to come to school with less knowledge of what was to be taught than the teachers of older students were.

Teachers agreed that a student’s ethnicity and or culture are important factors in their learning, but they also agreed with two assimilationist statements that promoted colorblindness, that is they agreed that when they saw a child, they saw just that, a child, and not that child’s race (Love & Kruger, 2005).

Teachers were split, some agreed and some disagreed, about the strength of their relationships with their students (Love & Kruger, 2005). Teachers that had attended historically black colleges and universities seemed to be more positive about their relationships with students.  I wonder if the researchers considered that teachers who went to historically black colleges and universities may indeed be black themselves, and so this could be part of the reason they identified with African American students more strongly. It did not provide a racial profile of the teachers who answered this question, an omission on the part of the researchers.  They provided racial demographic information of the teachers when they discussed their participants, but neglected to use that information when discussing their results.

For 3/4 of the statements about the cooperative responsibility for each child’s achievement, teachers did not come to any kind of consensus, with large numbers both agreeing and disagreeing (Love & Kruger, 2005). When it came to parental involvement, teachers were split mostly on the grounds of the schools they were teaching in. All schools agreed with “parents ought to be self motivated to help their child learn and be actively involved in the classroom” ( Love & Kruger, 2005, p.91). Schools that had strong parent involvement disagreed with the statement “I hardly ever see or hear form the parents of the children in my classroom” ( p.91). Two of the other schools had teachers who disagreed with each other about these statements. The schools were located in a lower income neighborhood than the first two, and saw less of the parents because many were working more than one job. The schools were also instituting programs to increase parental involvement, so these factors could explain the disagreement among teachers. The last two schools agreed with the statement. They seemed to see less of the families, because though they were low income like the second set of schools, their residents were more transient and they did not have the programs to increase parent involvement.

Teachers agreed with four culturally relevant statements about the profession of teaching (Love & Kruger, 2005). These statements showed that the teachers saw the relevance of working in urban schools, and their desire to do so. Most teachers disagreed with each other on an assimilationist statement stating that inner city children needed a good education so they could leave the inner city for a better life.

In considering statements about teaching methods, teachers agreed with culturally relevant statements that allowed students to share their own knowledge with the teacher and showed the flexibility of letting a lesson go where it needed to go, and not confining it to a concrete plan (Love & Kruger, 2005). Teachers did disagree on two of the five assimilationist statements, which endorsed repetition and drill, and acknowledged the inevitability that some students will fail no matter what the teacher does.

Teachers endorsed culturally relevant statements about a student’s individual strengths and needs, agreeing that all students’ needs should be incorporated into lesson planning and that all students have some skill and can find success.  They rejected the idea that all “children basically learn in the same way” (Love & Kruger, 2005, p.92). The researchers concluded that though teachers recognized the importance of race and ethnicity to a students identity and life, the so called color blind statements seemed “more socially acceptable, or that to ignore racial and other differences in the classroom may seem more equitable” (Love & Kruger, p.95). The researchers stated that not recognizing the difference diminishes the importance of this factor in children’s lives. The study does not present research to support this conclusion, but cites other authors who have stressed the importance.

The second study by Love and Kruger (2005) looked at the correlation of the teachers responses to the test scores of their students. Two of the schools from the original study were used to pull teachers as subjects for this study. Both schools were working to effect change and become more culturally responsive. Both were very low income, and most of the students were African American. Fifty teachers were chosen. Their responses from the first study were used, and these were compared with test scores of their students on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, (ITBS). The grades taught by the teachers ranged from kindergarten through fifth grade. Seventy percent were African American, 28% were Caucasian, and two percent were Indian (Native American or native or descendent of India was not indicated). The age of the teachers produced a median of 36 and 38, and again the range was quite broad, from teachers as young as 22 to as old as 55. The least experienced teacher had taught only one year previously, while at least one had been teaching as long as 30 years. The median for experience was nine years.

The test scores of 1,432 students were analyzed (Love & Kruger, 2005). The scores of each classroom were grouped together and averaged so each classroom had one score to analyze. Test scores were converted to Z scores so there would be compatible numbers for the correlation.

The study (Love & Kruger, 2005) showed that nine of the statements on the survey had significant correlations with the test scores of the students. Agreement with the statement “It is my job to disseminate knowledge to my students” ( Love & Kruger, 2005, p.90) was shown to correlate positively with students higher test scores in Language Arts (+.37) and reading(+.30). That this assimilationist statement correlated positively with achievement was surprising. Culturally relevant statements regarding the importance of success for a whole class, not just the individual student also showed a positive correlation (+.35) when it came to higher reading scores. These three questions had had a lot of disagreement, and teachers who agreed with them had students with higher test scores than those who did not agree. Teachers who saw teaching as a way to give back to the community also had students with higher test scores (+.41). The assimilationist statement “with enough repetition, drill, and practice, students will attain a passing grade” was also shown to have a positive effect on reading achievement (+.36).

The statements that showed teachers believed they could not reach all students and that they rarely had parents visiting their room were both negatively correlated with students test scores, (-.31 and -.41 in reading, respectively) (Love & Kruger, 2005). The less a teacher agreed with these statements, the lower the students’ test scores were. The researchers suggest that making a classroom as welcoming to parents as possible could be a way to reverse this pattern. Indeed, some situations may keep parents away for other reasons, but they suggest being as gracious and flexible with parents as possible may create an environment they feel comfortable entering.

The study (Love & Kruger, 2005) showed no correlation between race, culture, or ethnicity and students test scores, either high or low. The endorsement of the assimilationist statements that reflect traditional teaching methods were hypothesized by the researchers to connect to an experienced teacher’s use of flexible teaching strategies, as well as other culturally relevant practices.

In critiquing Love and Kruger’s (2005) study, the reader find things the researchers themselves recognize. The fact that the schools were going through organized efforts to become more culturally relevant may have caused some reporting problems. Teachers who know what they think the right answer is may not report their actual hidden beliefs, and may not even be conscious of them themselves. Some of the questions are obviously easily labeled as socially acceptable or not. The survey was not long enough to have differently worded statements that may catch some of these hidden assimilationist beliefs. An observation of a few of these classrooms as an extension could elucidate whether or not these policies are actually being used in the classrooms.

Another critique could be the fact that standardized tests are sometimes not the best way to see student’s real success (Love & Kruger, 2005). Other measures of achievement could be used to cross check these results as well. The researchers recommend further research into the connections between teacher attitudes and student achievement.

In summary, Love and Kruger showed that when teachers believed they could not reach all students, or reported that they rarely had parents visit the room, students reading scores suffered. When teachers viewed teaching as a way to give back to the community, students grades improved, just as they did when teachers believed that repetition would help students achieve passing grades.