We are currently working on two papers. Here are the abstracts:


Teacher-student relationships and student socioeconomic background: a comparison between England and Scotland using large-scale survey data

Research has established that close teacher-student relationships (i.e., warm, open) as opposed to conflictual (coercive, discordant) relationships have a positive impact on students’ learning, school achievement, and socioemotional wellbeing at early ages and in adolescence. Amongst factors influencing the quality of teacher-student relationships, it has been found that girls, high-achieving, extroverted and engaged students are more likely to have close relationships with their teachers. What has been studied much less is whether students’ socioeconomic status (SES) is related to the quality of teacher-student relationships, above and beyond the effects of student engagement and previous attainment. This lack of research is surprising as literature on ‘teacher biases’ suggests that teachers can be prone to – more or less conscious – preferential treatment of children from certain social groups. We assume that interactions between teachers and students could be more conflictual when children are from a lower SES background.

In this paper, we use data from two large-scale, longitudinal surveys – Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) and Growing Up in Scotland (GUS) – to investigate whether there is a relationship between student socioeconomic background and teacher-student relationships amongst primary school students at age 10-11 years. We capture the quality of teacher-student relationships in two ways. Firstly, we measure the discrepancy between teacher’s and student’s assessment of the student’s attitudes towards school (e.g., whether they find school interesting). We argue that larger discrepancies reflect misunderstandings and conflict in the teacher-student relationship. Secondly, we use information pertaining (1) the degree to which students like their teacher and (2) their perception of being treated fairly by their teacher. The comparison between England and Scotland enables us to explore the impact of ‘macro-factors’ such as education systems and teacher training on SES-differences in teacher-student relationships. We discuss potential long-term effects of such early schooling experiences on outcomes in adolescence.


Socioeconomic bias in teacher assessments of primary school students: the mediating role of student attitudes, student behaviour and parental involvement

This paper aims to investigate socioeconomic biases in teacher assessments of school performance of primary school students. A social bias in teacher assessments is typically measured as a discrepancy between teacher assessment (e.g., ratings of student academic performance) and student scores on standardised ability tests that is systematically linked to the student’s social class or socioeconomic status. A core limitation of existing research is that experimental studies – which are common in the field – although powerful in uncovering causal relationships, lack external validity as they usually involve teachers assessing fictional student cases. Moreover, they are limited in their ability to uncover the processes that underlie these biases. These socioeconomic biases in teacher assessments might arise because teachers unconsciously factor in some student characteristics that relate to their socioeconomic background. Examples of these characteristics could be students’ behaviour and attitudes towards learning or parental involvement in children’s education. Other factors that have received relatively little attention so far are “macro-level factors” such as education policy and teacher training.

In this paper we use three large-scale secondary data sets – the British Millennium Cohort Study (MCS – England), Growing Up in Scotland (GUS – Scotland), and the National Education Panel Study (NEPS – Germany) – to (1) identify socioeconomic biases in teachers’ assessments of students’ academic abilities, and (2) analyse the extent to which these biases are mediated by student behaviour in the classroom, academic attitudes, and parental involvement in children’s education. We use linear regression analysis and causal mediation analysis. All three data sets provide comparable measures of subjective teacher assessments of students’ abilities in different subjects and various cognitive ability measures gathered through standardised ability tests. The longitudinal structure of the data sets helps to minimise methodological problems that could arise through issues such as reverse causality. The multi-country approach enables us to explore how “macro-level factors” such as education policy and teacher training influence teacher bias.


Further publications


Teacher judgements, student social background, and student progress in primary school: a cross-country perspective

Valentina presented a published study on biased teacher assessment at the 2022 11th Annual International Conference of the Society for Longitudinal and Lifecourse Studies (SLLS) – Growing Up and Growing Older Across Societies: Harnessing the Power of Comparative Research.

More details can be found on our News and Events page and slides can be viewed below.