Black Children's Judgments of In-Group and Out-Group Students' Academic Achievement, Motivation, and Behavior

Article excerpt

Abstract

Seventy-two first-, third-, and fifth-grade Black children heard stories about Black and White students engaged in computer, physical education, social studies, and spelling tasks at school. Children were asked to evaluate the ability, effort, experience of task difficulty, and likelihood of task success for the story characters. Findings indicated that the effect of character's race and sex on the children's evaluations varied across task domains and type of judgment being made. Children judged that females would need more effort than males would need to learn the social studies material. For the computer task, racial in-group favoritism was suggested by findings that Blacks would need less effort to learn the task than Whites. In-group favoritism based on the learner's sex was suggested by girls 'attribution of more ability to females than to males for the computer task. Implications of these findings for the continued study of academic achievement stereotypes of Black students are discussed.

Introduction

In everyday social settings, observers treat information about social category membership (e.g., age, nationality, race, sex, or gender group) as a guide to an actor's behavioral, physical, and psychological attributes. Such information may evoke subjective attitudes and influence stereotypes, social perceptions, and evaluative judgments made by and about children as well as adults (Aboud, 1987; Katz, 1976; Ruble & Martin, 1998). Among the more pervasive inferences drawn about children on the basis of race or sex group membership are inferences that assume individual differences in academic ability, achievement behaviors, and motivation for schooling (Tyson, 2002). It is not surprising, then, that the individual differences (such as race, sex, and gender) that children encounter among people at school might influence their expectations and perceptions of the behavior and social roles of classmates and friends in that setting (e.g., Lawrence, 1991; Wentzel & Caldwell, 1997).

Children's achievement-related perceptions and expectations of their classmates are particularly important to understand. Observation of peer models has been found to influence children's self efficacy for learning and their performance outcomes (e.g., Schunk, Hanson, & Cox, 1987) . Moreover, the use of social category membership to explain and predict individual differences among groups of children in school is evident in the concern over the influence of peers' characteristics on students' school experiences and academic achievement (e.g., Berndt, Laychak, & Park, 1990; Nelson-Le Gall, 2006; Wentzel & Caldwell, 1997). Indeed, inferences about how the physical and psychological properties of peers of different sexes or from different racial groups might influence the school experiences and academic achievement of students have undergirded educational policy and practices from single sex schooling to racial desegregation.

There is accumulating research evidence that stereotypes about race, sex, and gender influence children's social perceptions and evaluative judgments of actors (Berndt & Heller, 1986; Jones, Parker, Joyner, & Ulku-Steiner, 1999; Karniol & Aida, 1997; Lawrence, 1991; Lobel, Bempechat, Gewirtz, Topaz, & Bashe, 1993; Martin, 1989; Steinberg & Hall, 1981). Children as young as three years old (and likely younger) are aware that people differ by skin color. By kindergarten, children have begun to form racial attitudes about their own and other racial groups (Aboud, 1987; Katz, 1976) . In addition, young children have begun to acquire knowledge about gender and develop beliefs and expectations about the appearance, behavior, and social roles of individuals who differ by sex or gender (Ruble & Martin, 1998) . For example, Jones et al. (1999) studied Black and White preschool, first-grade, and fourth-grade children's moral and liking judgments of Black and White actors. …