Cross-race student-teacher relationships and the transition to kindergarten
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Previous research suggests that young children expect individuals who are members of the same social group (e.g., race, gender) to have warmer and closer relationships than individuals who are members of different social groups. Such an expectation may act as a barrier to academic achievement for children assigned to cross-race teachers, particularly during kindergarten. To investigate the effect of student-teacher relationships on academic achievement, kindergarten students (N = 70; 27 European American, 14 African American, 25 Latino, 4 Asian American) were assigned to a teacher who was depicted as having either warm cross-race (experimental condition) or warm same-race (control condition) relationships. The consequential effects on students’ perceptions of the their student-teacher relationship quality and school performance was examined. Results indicated that students who viewed a presentation emphasizing their teacher’s positive same-race relations, and who were paired with a same-race (but not cross-race) teacher, perceived closer, more supportive relationships with their teachers than their peers. Similarly, African American and Latino students who viewed a presentation emphasizing positive same-race relations perceived closer relations with their teachers than their European American and Asian American peers. Overall, students who viewed a presentation emphasizing positive cross-race relations showed better work habits in the classroom. Unexpectedly, the experimental manipulation was ineffective at countering children’s explicit beliefs about others’ racial biases. Potential implicit mechanisms of change in perceptions of the student-teacher relationship are discussed.