Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

The Relationship between Teachers' Beliefs and Sense of Efficacy and Their Significance to Urban LSES Minority Students

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

The Relationship between Teachers' Beliefs and Sense of Efficacy and Their Significance to Urban LSES Minority Students

Article excerpt


A basic prerequisite to learning in school is an openness on the part of the student to accept the teacher as a credible source. For this to occur, the student should feel that the teacher is significant to him or her in a positive way. Negative attitudes and stereotypes on the part of the teacher may act to destroy this tenuous crucial bond, or prevent it from ever developing, thereby creating student resistance to the teacher both personally and educationally. This is particularly true in the relationship between teachers and their lower socioeconomic status (LSES) minority students. Teachers who avoid or reject negative attitudes and stereotypes are able to face LSES minority students with a type of respect that allows them to expect and achieve success with these students.

It would be helpful for all teachers, who in general sincerely wish to do their best, to become aware of their attitudes and beliefs and what impact these have on students. This responsibility is greater in situations in which the cultural and economic backgrounds of the teachers and students are different. We cannot now nor will we in the near future be able to match students and teachers according to their ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds--there are simply not enough minority teachers in the labor force (Haberman, 1989). Moreover, as Grant (1989) suggests, teachers (even minority teachers) are often trained by White male professors whose knowledge of urban schools, at-risk students, and minority cultures comes from secondary sources. Teachers, even Black teachers whose life experiences are similar to those of the White middle class, tend to group and rank their Black students according to socioeconomic characteristics, teachability, and adaptability to bureaucratic school norms (Gouldner, 1978). Such preconceptions impair the psychological processes through which student motivation and achievement are shaped. Researchers such as Baron and Cooper (1985), who examined via meta-analysis 20 studies on discrimination against minority students, have long contended that dominant cultural biases against LSES minority students have had a detrimental effect on these students' motivation and achievement. The present study examines the connections between the teacher's significance to LSES minority students and such beliefs.


In schools where LSES African American and Hispanic students predominate, many deleterious conditions exist that are exacerbated by negative teacher attitudes and stereotypes. These conditions have been firmly established in the research literature and include lower-track-level placement of LSES minority students (Oakes, 1987); lowered expectations and reduced opportunities (Brophy, 1983; Entwisle & Webster, 1974; Maeroff, 1988; C. Payne, 1984); and differences between school personnel and students in language, lifestyles, values, personal preferences, cognitive and social styles, and occupational aspirations (Levy, 1976; Michaels, 1982; Ogbu, 1986; Ramirez, 1982; Scribner & Cole, 1973; Spolansky, 1978). Alone or in combination, they create problematic relationships between teachers and LSES minority students. The results are often frequent discipline problems (Ford, 1985; Glidewell, 1978; Maeroff, 1988; C. Payne, 1984; Reed, 1988; Selove, 1984), which deprive these students of meaningful instruction. However, to be effective while maintaining their own sense of efficacy, teachers must gain the students' trust and become significant to them despite these conditions.

Research has long confirmed that LSES minority students are frequently misperceived and that they are keenly aware of this discrimination (Davidson & Lang, 1960; Entwisle & Webster, 1974; Graham, 1986; Maehr & Rubovits, 1973; Rist, 1973). Ichheiser (1970) notes that individuals consciously or unconsciously anticipate and adjust their behavior to some degree to match the expectations and stereotypical images they hold in mind. …

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