Favoritism in the Classroom: A Study on Turkish Schools

Article excerpt

Favoritism is among the most popular topics in educational institutions. Teachers are said to favor certain students over others at school and especially in their classes. Despite this popularity, there are very few studies on this topic. In Turkey, discussion of the topic does not go beyond newspaper articles. This study was therefore undertaken to establish the perceptions of Turkish high school students as to whether their teachers were engaged in favoritism. A total of 896 high school students were contacted for their opinions. Data was collected through questionnaires and analyzed with respect to students' gender, economic status and academic success. The students were found to believe that those whose parents were friends or relatives with the teacher, occupied powerful positions or were economically privileged, and those who held similar political views to the teacher or were physically attractive were favored by the teachers.

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The ethical principles of the teaching profession include professionalism, responsible service, fairness, equality, loyalty, maintaining a healthy and safe environment, honesty and integrity, trust, objectivity, professional loyalty and continuous development, respect, effective use of resources, respect for human freedom, and compassion (Aydin, 2003; Keith-Spiegel, Witting, Perkins, Balogh & Whitley, 1993). Additionally, by signing the United Nations Convention against Discrimination in Education, many countries, including Turkey, have adopted the principle of non-discrimination in education for all citizens regardless of race, color, gender, language, religion, political or other affiliations, national or ethnic background, economic power or birth rights. Despite these ethical principles and the existence of the Convention, allegations of discrimination or favoritism sometimes surface in education (Milliyet, 7 October 2006).

Favoritism is the inclination to favor some person or group not for their abilities but for some irrelevant factor such as a characteristic they possess, or their personal contacts, or merely out of personal preferences (Employee Favoritism, 2006). It destroys equality as it brings certain advantages to people who did not earn them and it also hurts others' good intentions (Nadler and Schulman, 2006). One of the most basic themes in ethics is fairness, stated this way by Aristotle: "Equals should be treated equally and unequals unequally." Favoritism interferes with fairness because it gives undue advantage to someone who does not necessarily merit this treatment. Comparing the effort distribution of the "normal" pupils with the one of the "special" pupils leads to an observation which might be counterintuitive from the perspective of folk-psychology: Regardless of the question whether or not they are highly talented in reality and no matter with what kind of teacher they are matched, "special" pupils never become top achievers in a situation where they are potential favorites (Mechtenberg, 2006). I strongly believe that the biggest dilemma presented by favoritism is that few people see it as a problem.

Favoritism in the classroom is one of the most important reasons affecting instruction and thus student success. Factors leading to favoritism among teachers may be listed as follows (Brophy, 1983; Clifton, Perry, Parsonson and Hrymuk, 1986; Delamont 1983; Ritts, Patterson and Tubbs, 1992; Dembo, 1994; Bilton, Bonnett, Jones, Stanworth, Sheard, Webster, 1993; Feldman and S aletsky, 1990; Braun, 1976; Kenealy, Frude, Shaw, 1988; Mortimore, Sammons, Stoll, Lewis, Ecob, 1994): student success, student's social or economic status, gender, physical appearance, familiarity between student and teacher or student's family and teacher (blood relations or friendship), and Parallelism between the ideology (political or religious) of students or their family and the teacher.

Student Success

Building a positive relationship between the teacher and students helps students become more successful and have more motivation (Al-Houli, 1999; Bhushan, 1985). …