The Color of Emotion: Teachers’ Racialized Interpretations of Children’s Emotion and Student Outcomes

Do teachers’ racial biases and racialized interpretations of young children’s emotions and misbehaviors lead to differential treatment of students by race?

African-American children and youth are more likely to be negatively evaluated by their teachers. There are Black–White gaps in suspensions and expulsions, and Black children are less likely to be placed in advanced academic classes. How much of these racial gaps in academic and disciplinary outcomes are due to teachers’ differential treatment of students by race, and how can we intervene to reduce such inequalities? The proposed study examines a crucial piece of what we need to know to answer this question. Building on earlier pilot work, the team will study the role of teachers’ racial biases in creating racialized interpretations of children’s emotions and misbehaviors, and how teachers’ interpretations influence their relationships with students and, potentially, students’ classroom outcomes. Two hundred pre-service teachers in undergraduate teacher education programs at George Mason University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as well as 26 teachers in North Carolina and their 4th and 5th grade students will be recruited for the study. Findings will inform the design of an intervention to influence teachers’ biases.