Preservice teachers' cultural stereotypes and individual constructions of difference in relation to different forms of poverty

Yendell, Oscar ; Claus, Carolina ; Bonefeld, Meike ; Karst, Karina

Document Type: Conference presentation
Year of publication: 2023
Conference title: ECER 2023, European Conference on Educational Research
Location of the conference venue: Glasgow, United Kingdom
Date of the conference: 22.-25.08.2023
Related URLs:
Publication language: English
Institution: School of Social Sciences > Unterrichtsqualität in heterogenen Kontexten (Juniorprofessur) (Karst 2016-)
Subject: 150 Psychology
300 Social sciences, sociology, anthropology
370 Education
Abstract: School-based studies have revealed predominantly negative stereotypes held by (preservice) teachers toward students from lower classes (Dunkake & Schuchardt, 2015; Lange-Vester, 2015). Dunkake and Schuchart (2015) revealed in their study, that preservice teachers in Germany perceive students from low-class backgrounds as more aggressive, lazy, undisciplined, and unmotivated compared to students from middle-class origins. In another study, Glock and Kleen (2020) showed that preservice teachers in Germany were more likely to associate students with high SES with high language skills, high ability, and good working habits. These negative stereotypes contribute to biased performance expectations (Tobisch & Dresel, 2017). Accordingly, teachers' actions can be understood as pedagogical communication that is pre-structured by classification, evaluation, and judgment (Bourdieu, 1992). Following this theoretical perspective, class-specific stereotypes of (preservice) teachers can lead to a reproduction of educational inequality (Lange-Vester, 2015). Focusing on preservice teachers is important because university teaching approaches can help reduce negative stereotypes among preservice teachers (Kumar & Hamer, 2013). Among individuals with low-class origins, a distinction can be made between welfare recipients, who receive welfare, and the working poor, who live below the poverty line without welfare support (Marx, 2020). Extracurricular studies show that welfare recipients face even more negative stereotypes compared to the working poor (Suomi et al., 2022). The more negative stereotypes refer, among other things, to a perceived lower conscientiousness and competence. To date, no studies exist that survey stereotypes of (preservice) teachers in relation to these two groups. Given the lack of studies investigating stereotypes of (preservice) teachers towards different low-class origins, this exploratory mixed-methods study aims to examine cultural stereotypes (Eagly & Mladinic, 1989) and individual stereotypes in the form of constructions of difference (West & Fenstermaker, 1995) of preservice teachers towards the working poor and welfare recipients. Methodology, Methods, Research Instruments or Sources Used To determine if preservice teachers have different stereotypes on the working poor and welfare recipients, we conducted a convergent mixed-methods study with different samples (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011). In the quantitative sub-study, preservice teachers (N=196) used an open-ended production task to write down cultural stereotypes (Eagly & Mladinic, 1989) for both groups. Two raters assigned these stereotypes to inductively formed content categories (Kappa = 0.82) and negative, neutral, and positive valences (Kappa = 0.88). Finally, a multi-factorial ANOVA with repeated measures with the factors group (welfare recipients vs. working poor), content category (social status vs. consumption & material goods vs. education vs. commitment vs. family conditions vs. social behavior vs. emotional state vs. health vs. sense of responsibility vs. outward appearance), and valence (positive vs. neutral vs. negative) was calculated. In the qualitative sub-study, we conducted problem-centered interviews with preservice teachers (N=10) and analyzed them according to grounded theory (Strauss & Corbin, 1998; Witzel, 2000) to examine individual constructions of difference between both groups. Conclusions, Expected Outcomes or Findings The results of the multi-factorial ANOVA with repeated measures indicate that both groups are associated with negative stereotypes. However, preservice teachers mention more cultural stereotypes about welfare recipients compared to the working poor, F(1, 195) = 11.27, p < .001, η2 = .06. Additionally, they express more negative and fewer positive stereotypes towards welfare recipients than the working poor, F(1.27, 248.23) = 56.1, p < .001, η2 = .22. Negative stereotypes primarily revolve around individual characteristics such as commitment, sense of responsibility, and social behavior. The qualitative study reveals that all interviewees perceive welfare recipients as having more negative public connotations than the working poor, often attributing individual failures like laziness to them. Preservice teachers who follow this public connotation differentiate cause-orientated between the two groups by attributing individual failure to welfare recipients and highlighting structural failures for the working poor. Preservice teachers, on the other hand, who referred to personal contact with welfare recipients, contradicted this public opinion. They only described a societal disadvantage of welfare recipients compared to the working poor. Overall, it is evident that preservice teachers tend to adopt negative cultural stereotypes unless countered by personal experience and professional knowledge. Consequently, the importance of social space-sensitive teacher training is discussed, aiming to foster an understanding of the social context and living conditions of welfare recipients, thereby reducing negative stereotypes.

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