Study: Similar personalities teachers and pupils can lead to poor judgment

I found this new German study via Best Evidence in Brief: when a teacher has a similar personality to a student, it can bias the teacher’s judgment.

The researchers looked at 94 teachers and 293 of their students, all of whom were in Grade 8. Teachers and students undertook a personality survey, and researchers compared the performance of the students on math and reading comprehension tests. Teachers were also asked how they thought the children would do in the test generally (a global judgment) and on a number of specific questions (a task-specific judgment).

The results showed that, when teachers and students had a similar personality, the teacher tended to give the student a higher rating on the global judgment.

However, the similarity had little impact on the teacher’s task-specific judgment. The researchers suggest that, when considering a global judgment, teachers do not consider the specifics of how the individual student might approach a test, and instead fall back on more subjective opinion.

Abstract of the study:

This study examined personality similarity between teachers and their students and its impact on teacher judgement of student achievement in the domains of reading comprehension and mathematics. Personality similarity was quantified through intraclass correlations between personality characteristics of 409 dyads of German teachers and their students. This similarity index was combined with teachers’ global and task-specific judgements of student achievement. Personality similarity has a significant effect on global judgement in both domains under study. Students who are similar to their teacher are judged more positively than students who are dissimilar, even when students’ test performance is controlled. This effect could not be verified for task-specific judgements. Results indicate that impact of potential sympathy bias in social judgements differs between different types of judgement. That is, global judgements are more likely to be biased than more specific judgements. Theoretical and educational relevance of the findings are discussed.

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