Students thrive when teachers are of the same ethnicity — particularly Black and Hispanic students, research shows
A new study reveals that children who have a teacher of the same ethnicity have higher math and reading scores by age seven.
The findings were made by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, who found that if children’s ethnicity is shared with that of their teachers, students develop better working memory.
This is the ability to hold and process information in your mind, which is a necessary skill for learning and problem solving.
The study’s sample of more than 18,000 students in the US found that black and Hispanic kids did best when their teacher looked like them.
However, the researchers also suggest that “It may be that Hispanic and black teachers are better able to support their students’ development.”
This, the team says, could be that children respond better to having a role model of their ethnicity at the front of their class.
The study found that children with teachers of the same ethnicity developed better working memory, which is essential for problem solving and learning
Lead author Michael Gottfried said: ‘Researchers have found that teachers of color are more likely to provide culturally relevant pedagogy, and when they do, they can better connect with students whose culture and experiences are often not reflected in standard school curricula and approaches. . .’
Diversifying the teaching workforce is an important step toward greater equity in schools in the United States.
The study was conducted among preschool children aged three to six who were observed for two years.
During this time, researchers gathered information on two measures of brain power.
One was working memory, the ability to hold and process information in our minds.
The other was called cognitive flexibility, the ability to change your attention and perspectives.
The latter was measured by how well children could switch between thinking about different concepts and was done by sorting cards by shape, color and edge.
Working memory was assessed by the researchers by asking children to repeat a dictated sequence of numbers, with an extra digit added to the sequence each time the child correctly recalled the previous sequence.
The study also looked at the effect of ethnically similar teachers and students on children’s reading and math scores.
The study’s sample of more than 18,000 students in the US found that black and Hispanic kids did best when their education was similar to them
All groups were compared to a control group taught by a teacher with a different ethno-racial background.
When students had an ethno-racial match with their teacher, their reading and math scores were higher.
However, it did not affect cognitive flexibility.
These findings held regardless of differences in educational standards and regardless of whether children were taught for one year or two years by a teacher of the same ethnicity.
It also made no difference whether a child went to a public or private school.
“What a teacher believes about certain groups of students can change the way they instruct, interact with parents, and grade papers, for example,” Gottfried said.
This perspective could be at play with a teacher mismatch who does not accurately recognize a student of color’s ability or developmental level and thus does not provide appropriate levels of scaffolding education, which has been associated with improvements in executive function in addition to academic performance. ‘