A new study by researchers at the University of Virginia finds that African American students learn more from teachers whom the researchers characterize as “warm demanders” – teachers who expect a lot of their students academically, lead a very well-organized classroom and make students feel supported in their efforts.
Lia Sandilos, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia and lead researcher of the study, stated that “initially, we found that a teacher’s perceived warmth alone was related to students’ academic growth. But when we examined teachers’ perceived warmth in combination with demand characteristics, such as whether students viewed their teacher as being well-organized or having high expectations of them, it turned out that demand played a much bigger role in predicting academic growth.”
Another key finding from the study is that African-American students showed academic growth when they perceived high expectations, regardless of the race of the teacher. “It’s important for teachers to be aware that the direct or indirect messages they send to students, particularly students of color, can influence how they perform in the classroom,” Dr. Sandilos said. “What we see is that receiving clear, positive messages about their abilities and their potential for achievement can really go a long way in fostering academic success.”
The study, “Warmth and Demand: The Relation Between Students’ Perceptions of the Classroom Environment and Achievement Growth,” was published in the journal Child Development. It may be accessed here.