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Students 'often find it easier to relate to teachers of similar backgrounds'

20/12/2017 Joanna

Schoolchildren may benefit from being taught by teachers who share their demographic backgrounds, according to a new study.

The research from North Carolina State University and the University of Missouri analysed data from 3,000 teachers and more than 80,000 pupils across six US states, in order to determine how pupils of different races rated the same teachers.

It was found that pupils whose teachers shared the same racial background as them felt more cared for at school and more interested in their schoolwork, with primary-age students shown to be more likely to say they understood their classes when taught by teachers who shared their race and sex.

Meanwhile, those at the equivalent of key stage 3 level were more likely to be thinking about progressing to university when they were taught by teachers of the same sex and race. This effect was most notable among female pupils with female teachers, with an even more pronounced benefit seen for black female pupils with black female teachers.

Overall, students were more likely to say their teachers pushed them to work hard and expected their full effort when they were demographically matched, making it more likely that they were able to reach their full potential at school.

According to the paper, this is indicative of potential benefits to hiring a wide range of diverse teachers to make sure that new material can be introduced to as many students as possible in a culturally relevant and engaging way.

The researchers concluded: "For policymakers, this study provides strong support for innovative and bold actions to reduce barriers for entry for more diverse teachers entering the profession, and efforts to improve retention."

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