Athanasiou, Michelle

Committee Member

Hess, Robyn S.

Committee Member

Erekson, James A.


School Psychology


University of Northern Colorado

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Place of Publication

Greeley (Colo.)


University of Northern Colorado

Date Created



131 pages

Digital Origin

Born digital


There is an academic achievement gap between White and Black male students as evidenced by the significant difference between standardized test scores beginning in the third grade and continuing throughout secondary education. It has been postulated that this gap is influenced by differences in how teachers interact with students of color. This difference in treatment may stem from implicit racial stereotypes held by teaching staff. Many characteristics such as skin color or accent can serve as triggers for such stereotypes. One factor that has not been studied is vocal prosody, the melodic contour of one’s speaking voice, and its ability to activate racial stereotypes. This study examined the degree to which vocal prosody might trigger stereotypes and thereby affect teacher’s expectations of academic performance. A group of volunteer teachers (n=104) were tasked with listening to a recording of either a Black or White student reading a passage aloud. Half the teachers were simultaneously shown a photo of a Black or White student corresponding to the race of the recorded student voice, while half only listened to their assigned recording with no visual image. They were then asked to select an academic profile (ranging from Advanced to Unsatisfactory) that would best fit their expectations of the student’s academic achievement. Using this methodology, the goal of this study was to determine whether differences in voice (i.e., White child or Black child) or voice and picture affected teacher’s expectations of academic success. The statistical analysis of group response patterns indicated that there were no statistically significant differences. That is, recordings of the Black student reading (with or without accompanying photograph) did not yield significantly different ratings of expected performance than those of the White student reading. Therefore, there is no indication that voice influences teacher expectation. Further study into the effects voice has on triggering racial bias, in or out of the classroom setting, is needed. Examination into how the age of a student influences racial cuing by the voice is also of importance to this field of study. Despite the lack of significant findings, this study highlights the need for awareness concerning how racial bias can be perceived as impacting the classroom environment.

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