Put yourself back in the shoes of your younger self it’s your first day at school you are full of energy and excitement. The next few years of your life will influence so profoundly that it will make you part the society that you will ultimately go in.
First, let’s talk about cognitive biases; these biases are held by people when processing information. Let us start with the anchoring bias. If I were to offer to sell you a board marker for £10 today, tomorrow I attempt to sell you the same product for £15. You would think that I am ripping you off. If I offer you the same board marker at £20 today, and then tomorrow I offer it to you for £15. You would think that you were receiving an enhanced price.
The only difference here is the order in which you hear the information. The price you received has not changed. Hence you anchor yourself depending on the first bit of information.
Recently I watched Darren Chetty’s talk (here). He skillfully deconstructs the impact of children’s literature on pupils of colour. Interestingly Darren points out that adults always buy children’s literature; adults, therefore, control the whole of this experience.
He talks candidly about the Secret Garden and the impact this has on pupils descended from colonised nations. Darren’s work got me thinking about my own experience in my formative years and thus the formative years of children of colour.
In England, 32% of children ascribe to the BAME label, and when we look at their representation in children’s literature, protagonists of colour only appear 1% of the time.
Adults in power have a lasting effect on these young individuals. When we tell children, they cannot be characters in their stories; this instils an anchored state many adults will have to battle to overcome.
After those thoughts, my brain flittered to ideas around efficacy, Pygmalion and their intersections, bear with me on this as I write out my musings. This work initially came from Albert Bandura and his model. Self-Efficacy is a measure of well you believe you can do your job well. This belief has an impact on your productivity and ultimately, how successful you are. More here.
The Pygmalion/Rosenthal effect is the impact of expectations; higher expectations mean higher outcomes. I believe these two concepts are intrinsically linked. Expectations feed into one’s self-efficacy; these expectations tempt people into thinking they can do their job better. Similarly believing in yourself to complete a task well raises the expectations of those around us.
Factors which impact on self-efficacy,
1. Mastery Experience – Direct experience of mastery is the most effective way of increasing self-efficacy.
2. Vicarious Experience – This source of self-efficacy comes from observing others succeeding.
3. Verbal Persuasion – When influential people (people in power) in our lives can strengthen our belief.
4. Emotional & Physiological States – The emotional state will always impact on how you judge how well you can do your job. For example, stress personally signals poor performance and leadership; the converse is also true.
5. Imaginal Experiences – Visualising yourself doing your job well impacts on how well you believe you (James Maddux).
We extend self-efficacy and apply it to groups, teams and even professions. Why not racial efficacy, ethnic efficacy or any other group. A measure of how well you believe your racial group can be successful?
1. Mastery Experience –
Let us start with teachers of colour, are they given the same opportunities to gain experiences.
I hear all the phrase ‘wouldn’t fit in with the team’ all the time when discussing interviews; this is an example of (group-think) bias, this is discrimination, and probably illegal.
Now are pupils of colour given equal and equitable opportunities?
I recently discussed in that in a London school (55% BAME) that the head boy and head girl are almost always exclusive racialised as white and middle class. Yes, they may be the most eloquent pupils, and I am not suggesting we denigrate them for that. I am, however asking what are we doing to ensure all pupils are ‘that’ eloquent?
2. Vicarious experience –
Can we be what we can’t see? We have to start with what teachers and pupils see. BAME educators make up around 13% of the workforce and less than 3% of headteachers. Who do BAME educators envisage themselves being?
Pupils may see other pupils of colour succeed, and they may become role models in their eyes. In their teachers, the adults they look up to, the people they reach for validation. Do pupils of colour need to see themselves in their teachers?
“Black primary-school students matched to a same-race teacher perform better on standardised tests and face more favourable teacher perceptions, yet little is known about the long-run, sustained impacts of student-teacher demographic match. We show that assigning a black male to a black teacher in the third, fourth, or fifth grades significantly reduces the probability that he drops out of high school, particularly among the most economically disadvantaged black males.
Exposure to at least one black teacher in grades 3-5 also increases the likelihood that persistently low-income students of both sexes aspire to attend a four-year college.”
Gershenson et al 2017
3. Verbal persuasion –
Are teachers all nurtured in the same way? Are teachers of colour offered equal opportunities? Do headteachers measure leadership capacity by just knowing?
‘a significant gap of perception & awareness. 43% of #BAME teachers in Glasgow felt overlooked for promotion due to their ethnicity, yet HTs don’t recognise this’
Do we encourage all pupils? With pupils of colour do we treat them the same? Burgess 2009 suggests not. Systemically we (teachers) under assess pupils of colour. Let that resonate, here is my blog on the topic. I’ll remind you about the Rosenthal effect from earlier. In the same study, Burgess states the Golem effect (the converse of the Pygmalion effect) is more pronounced in school where low diversity exists.
4. Emotional states
People (teachers and pupils) of colour as a whole have the extra stresses of society to contend with, do these bleed into our racial efficacy? Absolutely.
I’d also say that people of colour more likely labelled with SEMH issues (Golem effect again) :
A black person is ‘four times more likely to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act’ and black boys.
Carribean and Pakistani pupils are 1.5 times more likely to be identified as having moderate learning difficulties. Caribbean pupils twice as likely to be identified with SEMH need when compared to white pupils.
With Professor Steven Strand stating
“Is it that these young people from this ethnic groups are more confrontational with their teachers because of gang culture or is it a perception of their behaviour?”
5. Imaginal experiences
Earlier I referenced Darren’s talk on children’s literature, in it he talks of his black pupils stating that characters have to be white. If we are training our pupils (explicitly and implicitly) that they can’t imagine themselves or people who look them in stories. The impact is obvious in both adult and children alike.
Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy. The exercise of control. New York:
W.H.Freeman and Company.Emory University, Division of Educational Studies, Information on Self-Efficacy: A Community of Scholars.
Maddux, J.E. (2005). Self-efficacy: The power of believing you can. In C.R
Snyder & S.J. Lopez, (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology (pp. 227-287). New York: Oxford University Press.
Gershenson et al, 2017. The Long-Run Impacts of Same-Race Teachers. https://www.iza.org/publications/dp/10630