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Favoritism in the Classroom

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Tyla Fehr

on 8 May 2014

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Transcript of Favoritism in the Classroom

Favoritism in the Classroom and its Implications for CELTs.
Why Should Teachers Care About Favoritism?
Is Favoritism a Real Classroom Issue?
There is a wealth of literature that suggests that favoritism is indeed an issue that needs to be addressed at least to some extent by teachers in their classroom practice. However, not all researchers are of the same opinion. In his book
Against Fairness
, Stephen T. Asma suggests that favoritism is a real phenomenon, but that it should be viewed as a neutral or even a positive one.
Now that the relevant questions have been answered, lets take a look at how these answers inform the thesis that was stated at the beginning of this presentation, as well as how the conclusions we have drawn must be evaluated in light of scripture.
How can Teachers Prevent Themselves from Engaging in Favoritism?
I am thankful to say that many helpful solutions have been proposed to help teachers who wish to keep themselves from participating in favoritism . . .
This presentation has been designed to educate readers about classroom favoritism, with an emphasis on practical implications for English Language Teachers . Points that will be explored are questions such as: What is favoritism? Is favoritism a real classroom issue? Why should teachers care about favoritism? and, How can teachers keep themselves from participating in favoritism?
Definition of Favoritism
The unfair practice of treating some
better than others.
My thesis
Christian English Language Teachers should
understand the effects of favoritism
on their teaching practice and potential ministry, and seek to
actively foster an environment of equality
in their classrooms.
Against Fairness
Asma (2013) makes the point that
"everyone is a favorite to someone. The only harmful or sad thing is if a person is never preferred by anybody. . . "
(95). He also suggests that in a parent-child relationship, children who are not favored will not experience any negative emotions toward their parents as long as they know that they are loved (95).
Evidence for the Problem of Favoritism
Much more plentiful than the evidence that suggests that Favoritism is not a problem, is the research that affirms that
it is indeed a relevant classroom issue.
Against Fairness Cont.
Continued Evidence . .
In addition to the Israeli study, another survey done in the European school system showed that
two thirds of students perceive favoritism in their classes
(Smith & Gourd, 2006, p. 51).
For the purpose of this presentation:
The unfair practice of treating some
better than others.
Asma's argument is lacking for several reasons, especially when applied to the context of an English Language classroom. Firstly, the notion that everyone is preferred by somebody
does not take into consideration how the students who are not favored respond to the context in which they feel disfavored
. If (and this will be further discussed later on in the presentation) students react negatively in classes where they feel like the teacher picks favorites, than
Asma's argument must exclude teachers from those who should be apathetic about their participation in favoritism
. This is true at least, if teachers understand the impact that a negative classroom atmosphere can have on their teaching practice.
It is also useful to consider his example of parents and children in the light of the story of Joseph from the Bible. This can be done because Asma uses many Biblical references and examples to enhance his own argument throughout his book.It must be noted that
when Joseph's brothers saw him being favored by their Father, they sold him into slavery out of their bitterness (Genesis 37)
. I hope that teachers who know the importance of maintaining a positive classroom atmosphere and relationships with their students will realize the implications of this story, and the weakness of Asma's argument "Against Fairness."
One study done in Israeli schools shows that a shocking
90% of teachers and students have experienced what they call a "teacher's pet" or favoritism situation
(Zohar & Babad, 1900, p.637).
The same study showed that in
80% of classrooms, students perceive one or more pupils as favored
and treated with unfair preference (p. 640).
In addition to the students themselves, one study showed that
parents of students
- especially those of a low economic status -
also perceive favoritism in their children's classrooms
(Brantlinger, 1985), causing them to see their children as disadvantaged.
What these studies show is the overwhelming empirical evidence for the existence of favoritism in classrooms across the globe. What they do not show however is why teachers should refuse to take the same approach to favoritism as Asma, and genuinely care about whether they participate in it or not . . .
Negative Impact on Students
The previously discussed Israeli study also surveyed students in classrooms with no "teacher's pet" situation, classes with several favored students, and classes with one definite favorite. Of the three,
the classes with no perceived favorite reported the most satisfaction with their experience, and the students in classes with one definite favorite reported the least satisfactory experience in their classes
(Zohar & Babad, 1990, p. 642).
Negative Impact on Teacher's Reputation
Students that are aware of a teacher's tendency to participate in favoritism are likely to tell their peers,
creating a negative reputation that can be very difficult to change
(Steve Sonntag, 2010, p. 75).
Negative Impact on Students' Families
As previously discussed, the parents of non-favored students also perceive the favoritism that occurs in their children's classrooms (Brantlinger, 1985).
Negative Impact on Potential Ministry
The issue of favoritism must be considered as an especially serious one by Christian teachers. This is because of the higher level of accountability that must exist when one is attempting to embody Christ's character in their classrooms.
Negative Impact on Classroom Atmosphere
When favoritism occurs in the classroom,
mutual trust between the teacher and the students can be damaged
(Steve Sonntag, 2010, p. 75). Since this will inevitably lead to a negative classroom atmosphere,
favoritism can actually inhibit teachers from being able to create positive learning environments in their classrooms.
Teachers should care about favoritism because of multitude of proven negative effects that it has on many aspects of teaching practice . . .
How teachers feel when they reap the negative consequences of favoritism . . .
Students who are not favored
will typically grow to resent the teacher
, and will use much of their energy in the classroom to try to win a spot on the teacher's "list of favorites" (Steve Sonntag, 2010, p. 75 ),
creating friction amongst students
Favoritism also
results in the warped morality of the students who are favored
(James Spiegel, 2004, p. 90).It creates a sense of entitlement and self-worth that has little to do with their achievements, and enhances feelings of superiority, which are
more harmful than helpful to students.
Because one previously discussed study showed that students' parents also perceive favoritism in their children's classrooms, it can be assumed that teachers who tend to favor certain students will also gain a negative reputation among parent groups.This suggests that the
negative consequences of teachers participating in favoritism can be even more far-reaching than the school setting
When some students are highly favored by the teacher,
the potential learning of other students can be inhibited
. If for instance, if one student is perceived by the teacher to be smarter than the other students and gets more opportunities to participate in discussions,
the other students have less of an opportunity to participate and learn
As this perception most often occurs in families of low economic status,
teachers' engagement in favoritism can actually influence the way that their students' families relate to their social context
. For example, parents whose children are in classes where favoritism is an issue may develop the opinion that their child will always be disadvantaged in life because of their low economic status. This can also be true of students of ethnic or religious minorities
In her book Lambs on the
Ledge: Seeing and Avoiding Dangers in Spiritual Leadership
, Joyce Strong tells the story of a case of favoritism that occurred when she was an intern at a ministry. In this situation,
the director of the ministry's special relationship with a leader of one its programs eventually ended with his dismissal from his position, and the favored leader's removal from his position
(p. 16). This story is meant to serve as a warning for those who are seen as Spiritual leaders in their contexts, which many CELTs are.
The dangers of participating in favoritism can greatly effect CELTs Christian witness
Be Aware that Christians are Not Above Favoritism
The first thing that Christian English teachers need to be aware of, is that "most teachers consider themselves above favoritism, [but] few are" (Butterman, 2007, p. 39).
Seeing themselves with this lack of humility can lead teachers to fail to monitor themselves closely enough to notice if they do in fact tend to favor certain students. Therefore,
being willing to admit that they could potentially engage in favoritism is the first step in teachers becoming able to keep themselves from doing so
The happy teacher who has learned how to successfully avoid favoritism!
A happy classroom where the teacher does not pick favorites!
Become Aware of Which Students are Statistically More Likely to Be Favored
Studies have shown that
there are several "types" of students that are often favored
in classrooms:
1. Students who are academically successful
2. Students who have powerful or influential parents
3. Students of high economic status
4. Students who are physically attractive
5. Students with parents who are affiliated with the academic institution
6. Students who are Caucasian

( Aydogan, 2008, p.164; Brantlinger, 1985; Zohar & Babad, 1990, p. 640)
Become Aware of Which Students are Likely to Become Personal Favorites
Every teacher has a different personality, and
each teacher is likely to connect better with some students than others
(Butterman 2007, 39). This is not wrong until it translates into noticeable behaviors of preference, or unfair treatment.Therefore,
being aware of which students are likely to become personal favorites can allow teachers to monitor themselves more closely in the classroom and ensure that their personal feelings towards students are not being displayed in unfair ways
as they teach. Some practical solutions for how to maintain this self awareness are:
1.Be mentally aware of which students you tend to treat differently
2.Keep a running list of students that are likely to become favorites
3.Tell other teachers about your tendencies to create accountability
(Butterman, 2007, 40)
How Can Teachers Foster Equality?
Once teachers have become aware of which students are likely to become favorites, the question "How can I be proactive in treating my students equally?" can be asked. I would like to propose one simple answer:
Try to treat each student exactly how you would treat the students that you naturally favor.
(Perlmutter, 2010)
This solution not only evens the playing field in terms of treatment of students, it can also aid in the building of positive relationships with students that would normally slip through the cracks and go unnoticed by teachers.
For Christian English Language Teachers
Christian English Language teachers
have the extra responsibility of measuring themselves against scripture's standards for right conduct
. Keeping this in mind, here are some scripture passages that CELTs should meditate on when they consider the practice of favoritism:
To Conclude . . .
It is almost inevitable that CELTs will show favoritism at some point in their career, as it must be noted that no teacher - Christian or otherwise - is perfect. To comfort those who end up participating in some form of favoritism, Papatya Bucak (2007) wrote an article about a student who was not favored and ended up being far more successful than anyone else in that particular class. So even though favoritism is a practice that has many negative consequences and should be avoided by teachers,
God's grace is powerful enough to cover the mistakes of teachers, and lead our students to success even when we don't.
Asma, Stephen T. (2010).
Against Fairness
. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Aydogan, Ismail. (2010). Favoritism in the Classroom: A Study on Turkish Schools.
Journal of Instructional Psychology, vol. 35
, 159-168.

Babad, Elisha & Tal, Zohar. (1990). The Teacher’s Pet Phenomenon: Rate of Occurrence, Correlates, and Psychological Costs.
Journal of Educational Psychology, vol. 82
, 327-645.

Brantlinger, Ellen. (1985). Low-Income Parents’ Perceptions of Favoritism in the Schools.
Urban Education, vol. 20
, 82-102.

Bucak, Papatya. (2007). Teacher’s Pet.
The Chronicle of Higher Education, vol. 53

Butterman, Eric. (2007). Playing Favorites?
Instructor, vol. 116,

Perlmutter, David D. (2008). The Teacher’s Pet Phenomenon: From Dysfunction to Learning Model.
Teacher Commentary on Student Papers: Conventions, Beliefs, and Practices, ed. Ode Ogede, 29-34
. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc.

Smith, Emma & Stephen Gourd. (2006). Pupils’ views on equity in schools.
Compare: A Journal of Comparative Education, vol. 36,

Sonntag, Steve. (2010).
Teaching, The Hardest Job You’ll Ever Love!
Plymouth, UK: Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc.

Spiegel, James S. (2004).
How to Be Good in a World Gone Bad: Living a Life of Christian Virtue
. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.

Strong, Joyce. (1996).
Lambs on the Ledge: Seeing and Avoiding Danger in Spiritual Leadership
. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse.
Overarching Conclusions
In summary, what has been concluded throughout this presentation is that
favoritism is a relevant classroom issue
, that
teachers should care about favoritism because of its many negative consequences
, and that
there are practical ways for teachers to prevent themselves from engaging in favoritism and maintain an atmosphere of equality in their classrooms.
"I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism"
1 Timothy 5:21 (NIV)
"My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Jesus Christ must not show favoritism."
James 2:1 (NIV)
More Spiritual Consequences
It should also be noted that CELTs who treat some students better than others
have the potential of taking their favored students' eyes off of Christ, and placing them primarily on themselves
(Strong, 1996). As well, when teachers choose to treat certain students poorly or give less attention to certain students,
they disregard those students as made in Christ's image and deny their equal value with the students who are favored
(Speigel, 2004). Therefore, it can be said that favoritism has Spiritual consequences as well as affective consequences.
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