How do US teachers’ stereotypes of Asian students affect performance?

by Akimi Yano

A stereotype that some teachers hold of Asian American students is “model minorities.” Teachers‘ expectations for Asian students are higher than those for White students, Hispanic students, and Black students. Teachers tend to have higher standards and more positive perceptions of the social, emotional, and academic characteristics of Asian students than they do for other students of different race, which affects Asian students’ performance in the classroom and on the standardised tests in a positive way. Further, higher standards and higher expectations for Asian students learning play an important role in their positive self-perception.

Sirota and Bailey do not mention the fact that stereotypes do not always function in a positive way. Teachers having high expectations and standards could imply not only that Asian students get motivated by them but also that those students who are not able to meet the high standards could feel inferior. If the standards are so high, there must be some Asian students who could not live up to the expectations of teachers, their parents, their friends, and their community, which results into their negative self-perception.

Moreover, not all Asian American students are academically successful. The levels of educational achievement of Asian American students vary. Lee roughly divided Asian students into two groups: high achievers and low achievers. As for high achievers, they responded to teachers’ high expectations by having a fear that they would get categorised into low achievers if they do not fit the stereotype of the “model minorities” and responsibility to their family which motivated them to make efforts to live up to the high standards. As for low achievers, they reacted to high expectations of teachers by feeling embarrassed about revealing their academic difficulties and keeping them inside, and teachers take a laissez faire attitude towards those students who do not reach out for academic support.

Lee does not talk about any case where Asian students are motivated to study harder as a result of positive feelings made by teachers’ continuous high expectations for Asian students’ learning; however, there must be some Asian students who are motivated to do well at school since teachers give them more attention, more positive perception of them, and higher expectation than they do to other students of different race.

Sirota, Elaine, & Lora Bailey. (2009). “The impact of teachers’ expectations on diverse learners’ academic outcomes.” Retrieved June 3, 2014, from http://www.thefreelibrary.com/The+impact+of+teachers’+expectations+on+diverse+learners’+academic…-a0198931267

Lee, Stacey J. 1994. “Behind the Model-Minority Stereotype: Voices of High- and Low- Achieving Asian American Students.” Anthropology & Education Quarterly 25(4):413-429. Retrieved June 3, 2014, from http://searchuci.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/week-3-lee-1994-behind-the-model-minority.pdf

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