Teacher Errors in Perceiving Students

There are times when teachers make mistakes in how we judge and see our students. This post will look at three common ways people can misjudge people with applications for the classroom.

Stereotyping

Stereotyping is the process of making generalizations about a group of people. Stereotypes are generally malicious, but there are positive stereotypes that people do not complain about as much. In addition, people will often apply stereotypes to strangers or people they do not know yet. Once a relationship is established, the stereotypes may be discarded.

For teachers, it is common to assign stereotypes to students based on the students’ ethnicity. For example, some minorities may be perceived to have lower academic performance and a higher risk for unruly classroom behavior. If a teacher assumes negative actions from students, it can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy in which a student attempts to confirm a belief the teacher has. Of course, students can also stereotype teachers based on the teacher’s race, age, or some other metric, and this means that the teacher must work to overcome these preconceived ideas.

Sadly, stereotypes are often confirmed by a student’s behavior. However, there are also times when students disprove a stereotype by their behavior. This idea applies to the teacher, as well.

Selective Perception

Selective perception is the process of removing or ignoring information that we do not want to hear. This is related to stereotyping in that if we are exposed to a person who does not conform to a stereotype we have, we may ignore this information. To make things worst, sometimes people will only see the information that confirms their stereotype of another group.

Returning to the teacher, if a teacher holds a negative stereotype towards a student because of their race or gender and the student disproves this stereotype through permanence, the teacher may ignore this or consider it a fluke. In other words, they have selected to ignore specific information that is contrary to their opinion. This also holds for students when they ignore what they see about a teacher that does not confirm their beliefs.

Perceptual Defense

Perceptual defense is a protection mechanism that people use during times that they are receiving information that is personally threatening or not accepted culturally. Generally, this happens when receiving highly emotional stimuli. This emotional experience can lead people to have false perceptions rather than whatever real stimuli occurred. This can frequently happen when people are arguing. It is common for us to describe what we think someone said rather than what they said.

For the teacher, highly negative classroom management experience can trigger a perceptual defense. If a student is rude or disrespectful, a teacher may exaggerate how bad the behavior was. This is a natural behavior for most people. There are several common defenses people use when confronted with views contrary to their own.

  • Denial-A person may outright deny what happened
  • Modify-People explain away what they said
  • Change perception-People change there about what they experience but in a rather subtle manner.
  • Recognize but refuse to change-People acknowledge the disagreement but stick to their original position

Conclusion

As teachers, we must understand how or perceptions influence our thought process and the judgments we make about others. This is because of the authority that we have over students who may be affected by us if we do not understand them correctly.

1 thought on “Teacher Errors in Perceiving Students

  1. Pingback: Teacher Errors in Perceiving Students — educational research techniques | So, You Think You Can Teach ESL?

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