Is it a case of mind over matter? Influences on teachers' judgements of student speech
Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences
School of Education
Although language variation is widespread and natural, it is subject to judgement. Where a standard language has developed, other varieties tend to be judged against its ‘standard’. While a number of overseas studies have found that this type of linguistic bias occurs in education and negatively impacts on dialect speakers, there has been little research in Australia. This study investigates how teachers judge the speech of school-aged students and what influences that judgement. Twelve teachers met in four school-based groups to rank tape-recorded samples of speech from students who were not known to them. They determined the criteria to be used in the ranking process which was tape-recorded, transcribed and analysed. The results suggest that teachers’ perceptions of speech were most strongly influenced by the students’ use of non-standard varieties of English. This is of particular concern where the use of nonstandard varieties is also associated with lower ability as seemed to be the case in the present research. These findings have implications for education, particularly given the emphasis on oral language competence in recent curriculum documents and the increasing reliance on teacher judgements of students’ learning outcomes.