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Why are teacher recommendations not entirely merit-based? A mixed methods study

Simon Boone UGent and Mieke Van Houtte UGent (2012) Abstract of International Sociological Association Mid-term conference.
abstract
One of the most fundamental transitions in people’s early youth is undoubtedly the passage from primary to secondary education. In Europe this transition coincides with an important choice between mutually exclusive tracks which to a large extent determine later educational and occupational opportunities. In most of the European educational systems parents enjoy a great deal of discretion in choosing between educational electives for their child. The only allocating action commonly undertaken by educational professionals is providing advice as to which educational alternative to enrol in. Previous research in Germany and France has shown that the advice given by primary school teachers is not entirely merit-based, as it appears to be partly determined by pupils’ socio-economic background. Studies that inquire into the causes of these differentials in educational recommendations are virtually inexistent. The aim of this study is to examine whether teachers’ educational recommendations at the transition from primary to secondary education in Flanders (Northern, Dutch-speaking part of Belgium) can also be shown to be socially biased and if so, what causes these differentials in advice. To do so, we use a mixed methods design combining survey data gathered from 1339 parents of pupils in their last year of primary education in the months of May and June 2008 in 53 Flemish primary schools and qualitative data from 2 focus groups with primary school teachers. Our findings corroborate the evidence found in Germany and France: pupils stemming from low SES backgrounds are more frequently advised to enrol in less prestigious and less demanding educational options than pupils stemming from high SES families, even if they achieved equally well. Analysis of both focus groups suggests that primary school teachers tend to unwittingly evaluate pupils from low SES backgrounds less positively, due to their emphasis on specific pupil characteristics like self-reliance, planning capacity, punctuality – which are more characteristic of middle class pupils. We think that teacher training programmes should pay more attention to all potential sources of social bias in daily educational practice.
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author
organization
year
type
conference
publication status
unpublished
subject
in
Abstract of International Sociological Association Mid-term conference
conference name
Transitions (Role/Status Exits and Entries)
conference location
Tampa, FL, USA
conference start
2012-01-13
conference end
2012-01-15
language
English
UGent publication?
yes
classification
C3
id
2009902
handle
http://hdl.handle.net/1854/LU-2009902
date created
2012-01-31 15:15:54
date last changed
2012-02-01 09:30:37
@inproceedings{2009902,
  abstract     = {One of the most fundamental transitions in people{\textquoteright}s  early youth is undoubtedly the passage from primary to secondary education. In Europe this transition coincides with an important choice between mutually exclusive tracks which to a large extent determine later educational and occupational opportunities.  In most of the European educational systems parents enjoy a great deal of discretion in choosing between educational electives for their child. The only allocating action commonly undertaken by educational professionals is providing advice as to which educational alternative to enrol in.  Previous research in Germany and France has shown that the advice given by primary school teachers is not entirely merit-based, as it appears to be partly determined by pupils{\textquoteright} socio-economic background. Studies that inquire into the causes of these differentials in educational recommendations are virtually inexistent. The aim of this study is to examine whether teachers{\textquoteright} educational recommendations at the transition from primary to secondary education in Flanders (Northern, Dutch-speaking part of Belgium) can also be shown to be socially biased and if so, what causes these differentials in advice. To do so, we use a mixed methods design combining survey data gathered from 1339 parents of pupils in their last year of primary education in the months of May and June 2008 in 53 Flemish primary schools and qualitative data from 2 focus groups with primary school teachers. Our findings corroborate the evidence found in Germany and France: pupils stemming from  low SES backgrounds are more frequently advised to enrol in less prestigious and less demanding educational options than pupils stemming from high SES families, even if they achieved equally well. Analysis of both focus groups suggests that primary school teachers tend to unwittingly evaluate pupils from low SES backgrounds less positively, due to their emphasis on specific pupil characteristics like self-reliance, planning capacity, punctuality  -- which are more characteristic of middle class pupils. We think that teacher training programmes should pay more attention to all potential sources of social bias in daily educational practice.},
  author       = {Boone, Simon and Van Houtte, Mieke},
  booktitle    = {Abstract of International Sociological Association Mid-term conference},
  language     = {eng},
  location     = {Tampa, FL, USA},
  title        = {Why are teacher recommendations not entirely merit-based? A mixed methods study},
  year         = {2012},
}

Chicago
Boone, Simon, and Mieke Van Houtte. 2012. “Why Are Teacher Recommendations Not Entirely Merit-based? A Mixed Methods Study.” In Abstract of International Sociological Association Mid-term Conference.
APA
Boone, S., & Van Houtte, M. (2012). Why are teacher recommendations not entirely merit-based? A mixed methods study. Abstract of International Sociological Association Mid-term conference. Presented at the Transitions (Role/Status Exits and Entries).
Vancouver
1.
Boone S, Van Houtte M. Why are teacher recommendations not entirely merit-based? A mixed methods study. Abstract of International Sociological Association Mid-term conference. 2012.
MLA
Boone, Simon, and Mieke Van Houtte. “Why Are Teacher Recommendations Not Entirely Merit-based? A Mixed Methods Study.” Abstract of International Sociological Association Mid-term Conference. 2012. Print.