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Students Perceptions of Fairness in School Settings: A Gender Analysis


by Sharon L. Nichols & Thomas L. Good - 1998

In this study, we explored gender differences in students?perceptions of fairness in two south- western schools. In particular, we surveyed 358 students in a junior high and 373 in a high school and examined how males and females differed with respect to how they perceived the fairness of their school and classes. Results suggest that gender differences in students' perceptions of fairness were pervasive. Specifically, in the high school, females more frequently than males reported they felt their school was fair in terms of personal experiences. In contrast, females in the junior high school more frequently than males reported their school was fair in terms of SES and ethnicity differences. Data suggest that some schools may create an environment in which peer norms support school achievement. We predict that students?perceptions of fairness mediate students outcomes within a classroom context; however, more research is needed to explicitly examine how fairness mediates students?sense of community and academic performance.

In this study, we explored gender differences in students’ perceptions of fairness in two southwestern schools. In particular, we surveyed 358 students in a junior high and 373 in a high school and examined how males and females differed with respect to how they perceived the fairness of their school and classes. Results suggest that gender differences in students' perceptions of fairness were pervasive. Specifically, in the high school, females more frequently than males reported they felt their school was fair in terms of personal experiences. In contrast, females in the junior high school more frequently than males reported their school was fair in terms of SES and ethnicity differences. Data suggest that some schools may create an environment in which peer norms support school achievement. We predict that students’ perceptions of fairness mediate students outcomes within a classroom context; however, more research is needed to explicitly examine how fairness mediates students’ sense of community and academic performance.


Childhood teaches us that fairness is an important aspect of our daily living. Perhaps there is no easier way to disrupt a childhood game than to charge “That’s not fair!” Normative beliefs about fairness continue into adulthood. Few would want to be part of a business organization or a social club that was consistently seen by others as “unfair.” Similarly, we suspect that being in a classroom or school perceived to be fair has a positive influence on students’ attitudes and performance. This general argument seems plausible-but what is “fairness”?


In this article, we raise the difficulty of defining fairness, a term whose definition seems straightforward to many citizens. We note that definitions of fairness may be mediated by developmental variables and positional power. Further complicating the issue of defining fairness is the fact that the perception of fairness is mediated not only by individual variables (e.g., one’s age) but also by structural and relational variables. After discussing definitional issues, we examine some of the empirical research conducted in school settings. Finally, we present our own research recently conducted in a high school and a junior high school in order to explore school fairness in terms of gender. These results are discussed in terms of both future research and potential policy implications.

DEFINING FAIRNESS


Hoping to get some conceptual help in defining the word “fair,” we turned to the American Heritage Dictionary (1991) only to be informed that the primary definition of fair is visually pleasing or lovely (e.g., a fair maiden). The second definition was of light color blonde, not dark or ruddy. The third, fourth, fifth, and sixth definitions were respectively clear and sunny, free of blemishes, regular and even, and free of obstacles. Definitions eight through thirteen were free of favoritism, just to all parties, consistent with rules or ethics, moderately good, superficially true or good, and lawful to hunt or attack. Exploring the adverb “fairly,” we found the following definitions: in a fair or just manner, clearly; distinctly, actually; fully, moderately. Distressingly no doubt a historical influence of Anglo-Saxon justice-our library work informed us that our childhood word for equitable was inexplicably intertwined with visually pleasing, of light color, fair hair, and sunny weather!


Defining fairness is an elusive endeavor. Fairness probably means different things to individuals who think at different levels of cognitive differentiation. Further, a perception of fairness probably depends on one's role the protagonist and the antagonist no doubt differ in their beliefs about what constitutes fair play. For example, consider the classic story of Jack and the Beanstalk and Jack’s level of moral behavior. Most children (and many adults) believe that Jack’s blatant robbery-of the giant’s property is “okay” behavior and even something to be applauded or enjoyed. In part, the perception of the appropriateness of Jack’s behavior is mediated by the giant’s inordinately large and unattractive (unfair) physical presence. With increasing degrees of moral and cognitive differentiation sometimes comes the ability to see issues from others’ perspectives; therefore, with increased cognitive maturity, some teenagers and adults would begin to question the “fairness” of Jack’s behavior and his “guilty without a trial” approach to “redistributing” the giant’s resources.


Furthermore, conceptions of fairness are likely to be time-bound not only within a given culture but also between subcultures. For example, we suspect that fewer Americans--even female Americans--in 1937 would have felt it unfair that high schools did not have female sports than in 1997. Attitudes about the fairness of the police or tax code are sharply mediated by socioeconomic status (SES). Thus, at a general societal level, there is concern about fairness although the conception of fairness appears to be mediated at least by age, developmental level, group membership, and temporal variables.

FAIRNESS IN EDUCATION


In this article we explore the meaning of fairness in educational settings. However, defining “fair” in this context is not easy, given the broad range of contexts from which to consider it. For example, following the work of Battistich, Solomon, Watson, and Schaps (1997) and Solomon, Battistich, Kim and Watson (1997), schools can be defined as communities from various contextual and perceptual levels. Battistich et al. (1997) found that perceptions of classroom contexts do not necessarily predict how students’ perceive the overall school climate. Additionally, teachers and students differ in their perceptions of schools. In addition to the operationalization of the educational contexts for defining fairness, there is a broad range of other “definitional” variables to consider. For example, is fairness to be defined in terms of resource allocation between schools? Or, is the meaning of fairness bound within a school as it may vary between teachers and students?

FUNDING


At a general level, many question the fairness of allowing America’s youth to attend schools that vary greatly in terms of physical, fiscal, and instructional resources (Berliner & Biddle, 1995; Kozol, 1991). Given the state of deterioration of many school buildings (see U.S. General Accounting Office [GAO], 1995; Natriello, 1996), some question the wisdom and fairness of investing public funds in new charter schools while allowing existing schools are left to decay (Garcia & Garcia, 1996). Some have argued that teacher reform efforts have been partially ineffective because reformers have unfairly left teachers’ expertise out of reform planning. Teachers have been asked to implement someone else’s plans (Good, 1996; Randi & Corno, 1997; Spencer, 1996). At a more molecular level, we suspect that teachers (whether in an affluent or impoverished school setting) would expect a fair distribution of resources and help within their school environment (e.g., a fair teaching assignment, protection from unnecessary intrusion, equal access to funds for purchasing supplemental curriculum materials, and fair access to instructional support and supervision).

SOCIAL SUPPORT


Work on school climate and organization has consistently shown that opportunities for teachers’ professional development vary from school to school (Rosenholtz, 1989) and, to some extent, within schools (Smylie, 1992). Indeed, it would be possible to take much of the literature on teacher commitment and teacher involvement in decision making (e.g., Riehl & Sipple, 1996) and argue that variables, such as teacher autonomy, administrative support, and teacher involvement, could be interpreted in terms of fairness. Perhaps teachers who perceive organizational climates as fair to them are more likely to commit to the organization and work to develop classroom environments that, reciprocally, students see as fair.

SOCIETAL BELIEFS


We have argued that normative conceptions of fairness are an important aspect of childhood socialization. It is a construct frequently used to interpret our environment and even to justify commitment. Many citizens learn at an early age that an acceptable reason for disengaging-quitting-is lack of fairness. We have argued that a generalized conception of fairness permeates society’s thinking about schools and, reciprocally, teachers’ thinking about their role and commitments within a-specific school environment. Teachers work in institutions that vary in support (i.e., at a molecular level, the school may be seen as relatively fair or unfair) with highly differentiated conceptions of fairness (e.g., “I’m treated fairly, in an unfair environment”).

STUDENTS’ PERCEPTIONS OF FAIRNESS: TOWARD A RESEARCH AGENDA


In this article, we want to explore definitions of fairness and consider how fairness sustains or erodes students’ motivation. This is not an easy task, in part because students attend schools that may be fairly or unfairly funded (e.g., adequacy of computers and library) or because they are in classrooms with teachers who believe they are fairly or unfairly treated. Our task in defining fairness is further complicated because the particular context in which perceptions of fairness influence students’ beliefs, preferences, and performances may vary widely from context to context within the school setting. Countless questions can be raised. For example, is the teacher fair in terms of classroom management? Is the teacher fair in allocating response opportunities within the classroom? Is the teacher fair in designing and grading tests? Within the broader context of the school, is the access to student government roles and extracurricular activities (newspaper staff, yearbook staff, cheerleading) judged to be fair by students generally or only a subset of students? Do students see the rules and consequences set forth by the school (e.g., the principal or school leadership team) as generally fair or mediated by variables such as ethnicity, achievement, family background? The range of “fairness questions” is extensive¾is the basketball coach fair? Is the band director fair?


If one thinks about fairness in terms of a particular student or particular student group rather than students generally, the range of possibilities for exploration is quite large. Does fairness differ from the perspective of low-achieving and high-achieving students or from a majority student versus minority student perspective? If a researcher focuses on fairness as viewed by majority and minority students, is majority defined in terms of the broader culture or the student population within a particular setting? It is well known that students are not one-dimensional (McCaslin & Good, 1996); however, a practical research issue is how many individual difference variables can and should be explored in a given study (see, for example, Snow, Corno, & Jackson, 1996)?


Even if we choose to ignore the complexity of students as social learners and focus on a single aspect of student, defining fairness remains a daunting task. For example, to compare low- and high-achieving students’ respective conceptions of fairness still requires a definition of achievement and the particular aspect of fairness being considered. One of many possible questions one could examine is the extent to which a dimension of classroom life (e.g., classroom tests) is fair to one student or fair to other students who differ from each other in important ways.


In our introduction to fairness, we have taken a broad path for two reasons. First, the construct of fairness is exciting and potentially important as it permeates many different aspects of students’ lives. For example, a researcher can make decisions about the fairness of a school environment in absolute terms or in relative terms (i.e., compared to my home, compared to my experience in little league baseball, compared to my part-time job). A second reason is that developing starting points for raising questions is arbitrary, and we recognize that there are hundreds of questions that could be asked about fairness. Thus, we frame the issue of fairness broadly because we want to illustrate the immensity of the task. The issue cannot be addressed successfully in a single study--rather, a programmatic series of studies and theoretical arguments will be needed to make significant headway on this important issue. In the social sciences, single studies are often overvalued and we suggest that the reader think of the research reported here as a small first step in a continuing program of research.

FAIRNESS AND GENDER: A STARTING POINT


In this article, we explore possible gender differences in students’ reactions to classroom and school experiences. Despite a voluminous literature on gender issues in school settings, and an emerging literature on students’ perceptions of fairness, these two matters have seldom been considered simultaneously. Our research purpose is largely descriptive as we can advance competing arguments as to why gender differences in perceptions of fairness in school settings may or may not be found. If we were conducting this research in the 1950s, we would have hypothesized that female students, as a group, were more likely than males to see school environments as fair. Even though schools historically were created and maintained primarily to serve the needs of male students, we suspect that in the 1950s female students were less likely to be aware of the opportunities they were losing (and they were less likely to feel comfortable talking about and asserting their rights to pursue lost opportunities) than female students in today’s schools. Although seen as more important actors in the school, some boys would have perceived school settings as unfair if I am special, why do I have to conform to all of these silly rules about conduct?


However, there are counter-arguments of some importance. Many female students in the 1950s would be daughters of mothers who worked in the war effort-mothers who might be encouraging daughters to aspire to goals other than homemaker. So in the 1950s, we would suspect that at least some female students would see schools as unfairly keeping them out of advanced science and math classes.


Given the advent of Title IX, the creation of women’s sports, and the continuing (albeit narrowing) obvious inequalities, both within schools and across schools, in funding for women’s sports, many female students today are more likely to resent unequal opportunities both morally and politically. Some female students have been empowered in single-gender math and science classes. Moreover, there is a clear interest, in at least some schools, in more actively encouraging female students to use their academic talents than was the case historically. Still, acute gender differences exist in some classrooms (Sadaker & Sadaker, 1994) and female students’ socialization experiences in school continue to differ from those of males (Bank, 1997; Eder, 1997). It is probably also the case that some (perhaps many) female students resent the socialization pressure that they should pursue mathematics or science simply because they have talent even though their personal interests lie elsewhere (being an artist or an author). Unfortunately, some individuals believe that because certain societal doors were difficult to open for females, it is important for female students to take advantage of these new opportunities.


Historically, some generalized beliefs about different gender conceptions of fairness have been advanced (i.e., women are more likely to think about fairness in terms of equity, and men tire more likely to think about fairness in terms of equal opportunity to compete). However, even if this equity-versus-equal opportunity gender distinction was once operative, there are ample reasons to-question its continuing validity. Hence, our problem statement is whether contemporary schools are perceived as equally fair by female and male students. It seems reasonable to assert that as we move into the twenty-first century female and male students should be provided with school environments that they perceive as fair and affording.

REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE


For some time, it has been known that boys and girls receive differential teacher attention in the classroom. In particular, female students receive fewer opportunities to participate in classroom discussions, especially subject-matter discussions. This seems to be especially true for lower-achieving females (Good, Sikes, & Brophy, 1973). Hudley (1997) notes that there is still evidence to suggest that in some classrooms, female students receive less attention from teachers and have a more restricted curriculum than do males. Indeed, some contend that contemporary schools do more than just mirror society; in some cases they reify sexism (Marshall, 1997; Weiss, 1995). There is evidence to suggest that some teachers are more likely to reinforce dependency behavior in girls, while encouraging assertiveness and independence in boys (Grant, 1984). Furthermore, there are also, at least in some classrooms, teachers who create highly differential roles for African-American and white females (Grant, 1992).


Contemporary gender differences in school settings transcend classrooms and also appear on the athletic field, in the cafeteria, and in hallways. Tallerico (1997) argues that although it has been twenty-five years since the passage of Title IX (with its emphasis on gender equality), there are still notable inequities between women’s sports and men’s sports and in other extracurricular activities, as well. Tallerico further notes that it is still possible to find curricula where the contributions and experiences of women are largely excluded.


Eder (1997) reports that sexual aggression toward girls in schools is increasing both in frequency and in seriousness in all regions of the country and in all types of school/community settings. She further notes ways in which male students use sexual labeling to keep female students from being too independent and from being non-monogamous. However, as Eder argues, some of these sanctions are imposed on females by other females. She contends that as long as girls emphasize physical comparisons with other girls, it is much easier for males to make them sexual/physical objects.


Thus, there is ample evidence to suggest that in some contemporary schools, female students continue to be treated differentially and unfairly in comparison with their male peers. Still, there are clear signs of evolving structural arrangements designed to facilitate the performance of females in historically male domains (e.g., women-only math classes). Further, Bank (1997) notes that female students have not only heard the message that they should achieve in schools, but have been very successful in doing so. As a case in point, she notes that women earn more than one-half of all baccalaureate degrees, as well as one-half of the master’s degrees awarded in the United States.

STUDIES ON FAIRNESS AND INSTRUCTIONAL PRACTICES


Recently, the concept of fairness in school settings has received some research attention. Generally, this research has approached the concept of fairness and the possibility of differentiated opportunities and perceptions from the standpoint of students’ achievement or socioeconomic level.

Age-related Findings


Thorkildsen (1989a) studied students’ perceptions of one aspect of fairness: adapting instruction on the basis of student ability. She studied 161 students in grades one to twelve. Data were collected by asking students to respond to various vignettes involving the fairness of specific teacher strategies for adapting instruction for individual differences. In interview situations, students were questioned about their perception of why some teacher practices were fairer than others. In general, students’ conceptions of fairness were age-related. At the youngest levels, students were concerned about the equity of rewards. For example, low-achieving students' needs for equal rewards were seen as more important than their finishing all assigned reading. Progressively, students shifted conceptions of fairness in these ways: to doing the same amount of work; to the idea that everyone should learn the same work equally well; to being able to partially differentiate equity of learning from equality of learning; and to equity of learning (it is okay for some students to learn more than others).

Importance of Context


In addition to these age-related findings about students’ emerging conceptions of fairness, Thorkildsen (1989b) found that students report some practices as more fair than others. Generally, she found practices that increase performance differences between high- and low-ability students to be unfair. In this follow-up study, Thorkildsen (1989b) explored the extent to which students judge fairness as dependent on the particular definition of a situation (i.e., to report that collaboration is not always fair or that competition is not always unfair). Following Walzer (1983) and Dworkin (1978), she argued that fairness depends on how participants define it in a particular context at a specific time. Data were drawn from seventy-two students (twenty-four first-graders; twenty-four third-graders; and twenty-four fifth-graders). All children attended the same school in a rural community and only students who had parent permission were interviewed (60 percent of the sample). Students were asked to judge the fairness of three coaching techniques (have more able students help the less able, public competition, and independent performance) in particular Situations. Although students reported some practices to be fairer than others, it was found that students reported that practices could become fair with group consensus. For example, students would agree that independent performance is fairest if the goal of the lesson were simply to improve individual performance. Hence, students were pluralistic in their conceptions of fairness. Subsequently, Thorkildsen (1993) explored the conceptions of high-ability students (ages six to eighteen) compared with those of a more representative group of students. She found gifted students were sensitive to issues of fairness, especially those that might sharpen interpersonal conflicts among students.


Thorkildsen, Nolen, and Fournier (1994) explored students’ (ninety-three students in grades two to five) perceptions of fairness of four practices (encouraging a task focus, praise for excellent performance, extrinsic rewards for excellent practice, extrinsic rewards for high effort). From their analysis of student interview responses, Thorkildsen et al. were able to posit four student theories about how to motivate learning fairly: Meaningful Math (practices are fair if students find meaning in the assignment); Dutiful Learner (teachers’ role is to make work appear easy so students work hard on whatever is assigned); Hard Work (rewards are given on the basis of effort); Competitive Edge (fairness means concrete recognition of superior performance). This analysis indicated that students held different conceptions of fair strategies for maintaining motivation. Hence, students’ views of fairness, particularly those of older students tend to be pluralistic.

Instructional Adaptation


Vaughn, Schumm, Nairhos, and Gordon (1993) collected questionnaire data from 158 fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-graders and interviewed an additional 56 students concerning students’ perceptions of teachers’ hypothetical instructional adaptations for low achievers. Although some students preferred the teacher who made no adaptations (the rationale was that this teacher treats all students the same and plays no favorites), most students preferred the classroom teacher who altered instruction to the needs of different students. However, all types of adaptations were not endorsed; for example, in interviews with students, it became apparent that students want the same homework, so that they can call all of their friends to discuss their homework, as well as other relevant social issues.


That study confirmed the findings presented in a study of secondary students conducted by Vaughn, Schumm, Nairhos, & Daugherty (1993). Students with high achievement test scores preferred teachers who made adaptations in contrast to students with lower scores, who preferred the teacher who treated students similarly. That is, students who most needed the adaptations were likely to prefer a teacher who did not make accommodations for specific students. One of the reasons Vaughn et al. suggest for this preference is the importance of students’ fitting in and being liked by other students. In other words, special attention tends to suggest special needs.


Fulk & Smith (1995) indicated that most students in their sample acknowledged the need to adapt instruction for different types of learners and saw teachers’ efforts in this regard as being fair. These results were collected in a rural school district that was entirely Anglo-American, but still the results are similar to those of Vaughn et al. (1993b), who surveyed an urban, ethnically mixed student population. It was found in both studies that students not only preferred teachers who adapt instruction, but that students can also explain why adaptations in curriculum and instructional materials may be necessary. However, Fulk and Smith (1995) found that individual students accepted teachers’ use of accommodation whether or not they themselves had special needs.


Ironically, Fulk and Smith (1995) found that first-graders were more likely to be comfortable with a standardized curriculum and a standardized set of rules, despite the fact that their teachers were already using differential rewards and so forth. In contrast, upper-grade students reported that their teachers were less likely to use instructional accommodation, but these students expressed more support for such accommodations.


In conclusion, the literature on gender differences in school settings suggests that although some schools are not sexist as schools were thirty years ago, there are still notable differences in many aspects of schooling at least in some settings. Further, when these-differences are sufficiently salient or consistent, it seems reasonable that female students could argue that schools are unfair. There is an emerging literature on students’ perceptions of fairness, but most of this literature has focused on students’ developmental beliefs (younger and older students) about teachers’ fairness toward high- and low-achieving students in hypothetical situations. In this study, we want to merge gender difference issues and those of fairness into the same research design by asking female and male high school and junior high school students questions about the fairness of their teachers and schools. Specifically we address this issue: Do male and female students perceive “school fairness” in similar ways?

METHOD


The general methodological approach was similar in both studies.

STUDY ONE: HIGH SCHOOL


This study was conducted as part of a larger research project designed for two general purposes. The first was to measure students’ selective attitudes and perceptions of high school experiences through self-report questionnaires. The second was to measure the effect of question variability on students’ responses. This methodological study originated from lengthy debates among our research team about the assumed student variation in interpreting various aspects of school. For example, how do students define cheating? Does it differ from student to student? How do they define homework?


In order to compare the effect of question formats, we developed four questionnaire forms labeled A, B, C, and D. The aim of all questionnaires was to gauge students’ perceptions of high school; however, questions were phrased differently on each questionnaire for the purpose of comparing question effects across forms. For the purposes of this study, however, we were interested in examining only responses to fairness items included on Form A. Therefore, our sample was a random selection of one-fourth of the approximately 1,600 students who participated in the large-scale study.

Participants


This study was conducted with 347 students from a large public high school in a southwestern city. Of the students who filled out questionnaire A, approximately 4 percent were African-American, 6 percent were American-Indian, 3 percent were Asian-American, 23 percent were Hispanic- American, 50 percent were Caucasian-American, 6 percent were interracially mixed, and about 8 percent reported their ethnicity as “other.” Students’ socioeconomic status was rated by how they paid for lunch: 46 percent reported they paid full price, 6 percent paid reduced price, 15 percent received a free lunch, 6 percent brought their lunch, and 25 percent reported “other.” There were 169 male and 178 female participants in grades nine through twelve.

Materials


There were twenty “fairness” items that probed individual perceptions of fairness (see Appendix A). In general, students were asked to indicate the fairness of their unique experiences both within the context of their classrooms specifically and their school in general. The questions were based on responses from a pilot study of undergraduate education students in a teacher preparation program where students were asked to describe a fair teacher. The purpose of that study was to describe the phenomenological nature of students’ perceptions of fairness and to explore gender differences in these perceptions. Furthermore, items mere conceptualized based on the literature and previous findings on fairness. For example, we included several items regarding how students personally perceive fairness in the context of classrooms and schools. In terms of classroom environments, we inquired for information regarding the fairness of teacher behaviors, including allowing equal opportunities and equal treatment of students. In general, however, items were based on the conceptualization of two dimensions. The first considers the effect of context on fairness perceptions (i.e., are there differences between the larger school environment and the smaller classroom environment), and the second examines internal versus external perceptions (i.e., how does fairness affect me versus how do I perceive fairness within my school and classes).


The internal consistency of all twenty items was high with an alpha of .86. Alphas, which were also computed when single items are deleted, remained fairly consistent (i.e., remained in the .85-.86 range).

Coding Issues


The response choices for the first three items were displayed as follows: Almost always, sometimes, often not, and almost never. These items were coded 4, 3, 2, and 1 respectively. The next fifteen items had for response choices: Almost always, sometimes, often not and usually and were coded 4, 2, 1, and 3 respectively Item F12--in my school, one group of students gets better treatment than another is worded such that the response choices of almost always, sometimes, often not, and usually-were coded as 1, 2, 3, and 4. Therefore, a higher number represents more fair practices while a low number represents less fair practices. The response choices were altered in order to check for internal consistency of items and to avoid a response set. This was further accomplished by changing the display of the order of the choices.


There are concerns, regarding students’ interpretation of choices. For example, for questions F4-F20, the middle two choices of “sometimes” and “usually” may not be discriminating given that these two words themselves are ambiguous and that they are presented to the reader on a scale that is unbalanced and in seemingly random order (see Appendix A).

Procedures


Permission to conduct the study was obtained from the principal of the high school and the superintendent of the school district. Parents were informed about the questionnaire study in writing and given the opportunity to refuse their child’s participation (less than 1 percent did so). Seventy-two packets containing an equal number of each questionnaire form A, B, C, and D (i.e., 9 each and 36 total) were created and assembled in alphabetical order (i.e., ABCD). Once assembled, the packets were randomly cut in half and put into an envelope along with thirty-six answer sheets (Scantron). Teachers were instructed to distribute the questionnaires to their students in the order they received them.


All questionnaires were handed out on a Thursday morning during second period. This time was selected because it was one of the peak attendance times. Students were asked to provide honest, thoughtful responses to all questions. When completed, all questionnaires and answer sheets were collected.

Data Analysis


When considering the appropriate statistics to use for our analysis, we initially decided that statistics consistent with ordinal level of measurement were the most appropriate since assumptions for interval level of measurement could not be met due to the atypical nature of the response choices (i.e., ambiguous word choices of “usually” and “sometimes,” and the inconsistent order of these choices [see Appendix A]). Therefore, we first ran non-parametric analyses including Spearman Rho and Mann-Whitney tests to examine the data. Then we analyzed the data with “parallel” parametric statistics (Pearson Product Moment, and t test) and obtained virtually identical findings across both non-parametric and parametric tests. Given the findings, we decided to use results from the parametric tests because they are more familiar to the reader and allowed us to use descriptive means.


We conducted four steps in this analysis. First, we conducted a factor analysis to explore how fairness items loaded. Second, we computed means and standard deviations to explore how subjects were generally responding as a group and separately by gender. We further analyzed the nature of these responses by examining how males and females were responding (i.e., by computing frequencies of responses). Third, we conducted tests on all items for gender differences. Finally, we ran a correlation analysis to explore item relationships.

STUDY TWO: JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL


We replicated the implementation of our fairness scale in a southwestern junior high school and looked for gender differences. In general, for all items, we kept the problem statements exactly the same as in the high school survey. One minor change in wording of several statements was to change “punishments” to “consequences" in order to be consistent with the language used within this specific junior high school setting. Further, after consulting with the vice-principal of the school, we added the following item to the scale, “In my classes, my teachers reward behaviors.” Importantly, the scales used for each item were-changed and restructured for balance and to reflect interval level of measurement.

Participants


This study was conducted with 358 students in a-southwestern public middle school. Approximately 4 percent were black, 25 percent were Hispanic, 2 percent were Native-American, 63 percent were white, and 6 percent reported their ethnicity as “other.” There were 187 males (52 percent) and 171 females (48 percent). Students’ socioeconomic status was measured by asking students how they paid for their lunches. Forty-three percent reported they paid full price for their-lunch, 10 percent paid reduced price for their lunch, 25 percent received a free lunch, 8 percent brought their lunch, and 14 percent reported “other.” Students were in seventh or eighth grade.

Materials and Coding


Again, fairness items used on the middle-school survey were nearly identical to those used on the high school survey (see Appendix B). A major difference (and something that was improved from the high school survey) was the scale used to measure each item. This scale was more balanced in nature and reflects interval level of measurement. All items were coded such that a higher number represents a higher level of fairness. For example, items F1-F12 and F14-F19 were all positively worded with the response choices of: Almost always, usually, not usually, and almost never and were coded 4, 3, 2, and 1 respectively. Item F13 in my school, one group of students gets better treatment than another-is worded such that the response choices of almost always, usually, not usually, and almost never were coded 1, 2, 3, and 4 respectively.

Procedures


Permission to conduct the study was obtained by the superintendent of the school district and the principal of the school. Parents were informed about the study in writing and were given the opportunity to refuse their child’s participation (less than 1 percent did so). Teachers were given questionnaires and allowed a four-day time span in which to administer them to their students.

Data Analysis


The data-analysis procedures we used were similar to those from the high school study. First, we ran a factor analysis to explore how fairness items loaded. Next, we calculated descriptive statistics to explore generally how students perceived the fairness of their classes and school. Third, we conducted independent samples t-tests to examine gender differences over all fairness items. Last, we ran a correlation analysis to explore how the items related to one another.

RESULTS


The result from study 1 and study 2 are presented here.

STUDY ONE: HIGH SCHOOL


The results from study 1 are presented in three stages.

Stage One Analysis: Factor Analysis


We conducted a principal components factor analysis with a varimax rotation to understand how the items were associated (see Table 1). Four factors were found and identified as dimensions of fairness. The first factor tapped into a personal dimension of fairness (Cronbach alpha of this subscale is .78). These were items that relate to dynamics of personal interaction. For example, students’ feeling personally treated with fairness; teachers showing genuine concern for individual learning; teachers noticing individual hard work; teachers caring about student learning; and percentages of teachers who personally treat students with fairness (F1, F2, F8, F9, and F20). Other items that loaded on the first factor were students are given the same opportunities to get good grades and percentages of fair punishments in school (F15 and F20).


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The second factor taps into dimensions of punishment (Cronbach alpha of this subscale is .77). For example, do students from different groups receive the same punishment if sent to the principal’s office (F4); does everyone in my school get equal punishment and are kids punished based on the crime and not who they are (F10 and F11); and do students receive equal punishments no matter how much money their parents have or what color their skin is (F13, F14). Again, these seem to tap into dimensions of how punishments are distributed. One item that would be expected to load on this factor is F19 (percentage of fair punishments); however, it actually loads on factor one. One reason this analysis may be less efficient in discriminating factors may be the relatively small sample size, which is below 400.


Items that seem to be loading on the third factor relate to rules (Cronbach alpha of this subscale is .50-however, given that there are only three items loading on this factor, an estimated reliability coefficient if this scale had 20 items is .86). For example, knowing there are clear rules to follow and that these rules are consistently enforced by the principal and teacher (F16, F17, and F18) all load onto this factor. This suggests that punishments versus rules may be distinct elements of fairness. Finally, the last factor, teacher fairness (with a Cronbach alpha of .51-again this scale has only four items loading on this factor and, therefore, an estimated reliability coefficient if this scale had 20 items is .87), includes the following items: Teachers treat everyone the same regardless of ability, teachers give everyone the same opportunities in the classroom, and teachers reward students based on ability, not behavior (F5, F6, and F7). These are all dimensions that pertain to how teachers generally treat students. This is distinct from factor one, which is more indicative of how teachers personally attend to students. The single negatively criterial item that indicates one group of students gets better treatment than another (F12) negatively loaded on factor four.

Stage Two Analysis: Descriptives


The means and standard deviations of all fairness items overall and by gender are displayed in Table 2. It should be noted that items F1-F18 are all on a four-point scale, while items F19 and F20 are on a five-point scale. Again, a higher number represents a higher perception of fairness; therefore, the range of means over all items is fairly high with a range of 2.03 (F7) to 3.37 (F20). Students reported that both teachers and their school are seen as generally fair.


[39_10315.htm_g/00002.jpg]


Means and standard deviations were calculated for each item by gender and are found in Table 2. In general, the range of means for females (2.04 to 3.13 on the four-point scales) is higher than the range of means for males (2.02 to 2.74). The highest means for females (on items with a four-point scale) were found on items that tapped into personal dimensions of fairness. For example, in comparison with item means for the males, females indicated a higher level of being personally treated with fairness (F1: female mean=2.95; male mean=2.58) and indicated a higher level of teachers’ showing more genuine concern for their learning (F2: female mean=3.13; male mean=2.64). A closer look at the response patterns of these two items reveals that males chose the most negative response (“almost never”) more often than females, while females chose the most positive response (“almost always”) more often than males (see Tables 3 and 4). Furthermore, males consistently chose the most negative responses of “often not” more frequently than females for all fairness statements except for one that indicates that teachers reward based on ability, not behavior (item F7; see Table 5), where females more frequently chose the most negative response of almost never.


[39_10315.htm_g/00003.jpg]

Stage Three Analysis: Gender Differences


We conducted tests in order to examine gender differences of responses (see Table 2). Eight statistically significant items indicated gender differences. In all cases of significance, females reported perceiving teachers and/or the school as more fair than did males. Females indicated that they are more personally treated with fairness in their school (F1; p < .001), and that teachers show genuine concern for their learning more often than males (F2; p < .001). Furthermore, females reported that teachers notice their hard work (F8; p < .05) and care about their learning (F9; p < .01) more than males reported this. In addition, females more than males perceived that their school punishes students fairly regardless of race (F14; p< .01). The last three significant items are concerned with punishments and percentages of fair treatment in school and classes. Females indicated that (1) there are more clear rules to follow (F18; p < .01), (2) there is a higher percentage of fair punishments in school (F19; p < .01), and (3) there is a higher percentage of teachers treating them fairly (F20; p <.001) over what males report.


There were no gender differences found on items regarding the fairness or equality of classroom and school-wide opportunities, rewards, or enforcement of rules by either the principal or the teachers. It is interesting to note that the majority of gender differences-females reporting higher levels of fairness than males-were found on items that measured more personal dimensions of fairness (i.e., F1, F2, F8, F9 and F19).

Stage Four Analysis: Correlation


A correlation analysis of all fairness items reflects a high frequency of inter-item relationships (Table 6). Item F12 (one group of students gets better treatment than another) is the least related to other fairness items given that it is significantly related to only one other item (F14). Furthermore, items F16, F17, and F7-the rules are consistently enforced by the principal, the rules are consistently enforced by the teachers, and my teachers reward students based on ability, not behavior-are also not as related to other fairness items. In general, however, the remaining fairness items are highly intercorrelated.


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STUDY TWO: JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL


The results from study 2 are presented in three stages.

Stage One Analysis: Factor Analysis


A principal components factor analysis with a varimax rotation was conducted to explore how items of this fairness scale related to one another (see Table 7). Items loaded on three factors; however, the majority of items loaded on two factors-eleven items on factor one and seven items on factor two. There was no logical pattern to the factor loading results.


[39_10315.htm_g/00005.jpg]

Stage Two Analysis: Descriptives


In general, means ranged from 2.37 to 3.21 on items with a four-point scale. The highest mean of 3.61 is found on the last item (F21), which has a five-point scale (see Table 8). Over the entire scale, means for female students ranged from 2.49 to 3.86 and were generally higher than means for male students, which ranged from 2.25 to 3.38; therefore, in general, item means of female students were higher than item means for males.


[39_10315.htm_g/00006.jpg]


We further examined the response patterns of males and females for the same items that were explored in the high school study. On these items (F1) do you personally feel you are treated fairly, (F2) do teachers show genuine concern for your learning, and (F7) teachers reward based on ability, not behavior-response patterns for both males and females are similar, indicating that in contrast to the high school students’ response patterns, males and females in the junior high school were responding similarly (see Tables 3, 4, and 5).

Stage Three Analysis: Gender Differences


An independent t-test was conducted and nine significant gender differences were found (see Table 8). Similar to the results of the high school study, students in the junior high school differed in their ratings of more “personal” perceptions of fairness according to gender. Specifically, females reported a higher level of fairness than did males on the following “personal” items: I feel personally treated with fairness, teachers show genuine concern for my learning, what percent of teachers treat me fairly. In contrast to the findings from the high school study, students in the junior high differed according to gender in their ratings of the fairness of students based on SES and race. Specifically, females report that the school in general is more fair to students on the basis of SES and ethnicity than what males report.

Stage Four Analysis: Correlation


A correlation analysis of fairness items was conducted to explore item relationships (see Table 9). There were only seven correlations that were not significant indicating that almost all items were highly related. Item F7 (teacher reward students based on ability not behavior) correlated least well with other items.


[39_10315.htm_g/00007.jpg]

DISCUSSION


In this section research findings and policy implications will be discussed.

FINDINGS


Gender differences in students’ perceptions of fairness were pervasive in both studies. Although in some cases differences were minor, female students more consistently reported that schools and teachers are fair than did male students. Further, the results in both studies indicate that females consistently rated their schools and classes as more fair than did males. Female students especially differed from males concerning those dimensions that related to them personally (I am personally treated with fairness, teachers show genuine concern) in both the high school and junior high school. Further, male and female students were differentiated by their perceptions of school rules and punishments in high school where female students generally perceived these differences as more fair than did male students.


An examination of high school students’ willingness to use extreme points on the scale suggests that some female students feel more strongly than do male students about the dimensions of schooling and classrooms that were assessed in this survey. In particular, it appears that females are more consistently choosing the more positive responses, while at the same time staying away from the most negative response of “often not.” Response patterns for males reveal a more normalized distribution of response choices. This again could suggest that in general, females perceive their classrooms and school as more fair than do males. Further, it is interesting to note that response patterns between males and females in the junior high school sample were not highly discrepant, suggesting that perhaps developmentally, junior high males and females are more similar in their views of fairness than tire high schools males and females.

POLICY IMPLICATIONS


We suspect that these results will generalize unevenly because the literature on effective schools and teachers has consistently shown that variations in the teachers’ and the schools’ ability to stimulate students’ learning varies notably (Clark, Gage, Marks, Peterson, Stayrook, & Winne, 1979; Good, Biddle, & Brophy, 1975; Good & Weinstein, 1986; Teddlie, & Stringfield, 1993; and Weinert & Helmke 1995). Further, there are data to show that students’ perceptions of classroom and school environments vary considerably (Brookover, Beady, Flood, Schweitzer, & Wisenbaker, 1979; Fraser, 1986). Thus, students’ general perception of a fair environment in these two schools may not be found in other school settings. To the extent that these findings generalize to other schools, policy implications would appear to be profound. Some educators (Steinberg, 1996), policymakers (Shanker, 1996a, 1996b), and media sources (Leslie, 1996) have suggested that peer norms mitigate against achievement. Data collected in this study suggest that some schools may create an environment in which peer norms support school achievement. We suspect that a perception of fairness for self and others may be one of the important mediating variables that helps to determine the direction of peer support for schooling. Despite the continuing attack on American schools and their teachers, it is clear that some teachers are seen as fair by their students—an essential element in any productive learning environment, especially one populated by adolescent students.


The results from the high school study strongly show that a high school can be perceived as fair and that teenagers can react favorably to school environments despite some recent literature reporting that teenagers in different schools report highly similar attitudes and comments about schooling. For example, in Beyond the Classroom, Steinberg (1996) concluded that conditions of learning (particularly students’ commitment and engagement to academic tasks) were largely predicted by peer cultures. It may well be that peer cultures, although important, are not as unidimensional and as undifferentiated as Steinberg concludes. If school cultures are more differentiated, it would seem important to begin to understand why some school environments are perceived as fair to students and how school interventions can be linked to climates of trust-a seemingly basic condition for academic work. More research is needed in this area to explore how these perceptions mediate student behavior and motivation. Indeed, one of us (Nichols, 1997) has examined the mediating effects of fairness and found a significant link between students’ personal perceptions of fairness and their levels of engagement. Clearly, students differ in their perceptions of fairness; however, this variability is undoubtedly magnified as fairness probably mediates various student behaviors and attitudes.


The results from the junior high school study also show that preadolescent students in our sample perceive their schools as fair. Gender differences in both schools show that males and females differ in their perceptions of fairness as defined in our scale.

FUTURE RESEARCH


This section suggests the need for replication as well as scale development.

Replication Considerations


In future research, contextual variables should be more explicitly defined. In our study, we did not systematically examine classroom-level structures. According to Solomon et al. (1997), students’ sense of the classroom as a community has a salient effect on students’ (1) positive interpersonal behavior, (2) active engagement in classroom activities, and (3) exercise of influence in the classroom. We predict that students’ perceptions of fairness probably mediate these student outcomes within a classroom context; however, more research must be done to more explicitly examine how fairness mediates students’ sense of community and academic performance. Furthermore, more research should be conducted to look at general school climate and its effects on students and teachers. Given that classrooms provide a community-like context for students, it follows that both teachers and students, who both belong to the broader school community, bring values, attitudes, and behaviors from their understanding of that broader community to the classroom.


Since these data were collected from only one high school and one junior high school, it is important to see how students’ perceptions vary across multiple settings. Are these findings largely a statement of teenagers’ reactions to institutions and adults in general, or are they more differentiated perceptions of particular environments? It will be important to consider how fairness is perceived by students in various high schools and to see if different elements in high schools can be associated with different levels of student perceptions of fairness.


Subsequent research can profitably explore why students hold different perceptions on the basis of gender. Interview studies are needed to see how students construct interpretations of fairness and how those dimensions may vary by gender. The range of questions asked in this study were at a fairly high level of generality and subsequent research should examine if questions asked at different levels of specification influence students’ judgment about fairness. Further, observational studies are needed to further examine the contextual variables associated with student behavior and perceptions.

Scale Development


Future work will focus on conceptual and methodological issues in measuring fairness. For example, in terms of the factor analysis findings in the high school study, each of the four obtained dimensions (personal fairness, punishment, rules, teacher fairness) were, in general, logically and internally consistent. However, there were some inconsistencies with certain items. For example, two items that loaded on factor one were not necessarily indicative of a personal dimensions of fairness (F15 and F20). These may be loading on this factor, however, for two reasons. One may be that personal dimensions of fairness may also incorporate more general aspects of fairness. Another may be that this analysis is less efficient in discriminating factors due to a smaller sample size (i.e., below 400).


Additionally, some of the items in our fairness scale were largely unrelated to other factors. These items, however, which were not as heavily related to the rest of the test, are possibly measuring unique (but not necessarily separate) dimensions of fairness. Furthermore, the anomaly that perceptions of unequal treatment of students from different groups (item F12) correlates with only one other item could simply be that there are no distinct group differences between students, or that these differences do not pose any real inequities of treatment. However, we suspect it is more the fact that the item was negatively worded and therefore was not interpreted or read carefully.


It is also important to note that factor analysis results obtained from the high school sample were not duplicated with the junior high school sample. Reasons for this vary. For example, perhaps the distinct age differences between high schools students and junior high schools mediate how each age group interprets each item. Another reason could be that the fairness scales used for each sample differed and thus reflected a different range of associations between items. In general, however, more work should be done to explore the validity of the four dimensions obtained in the high school study in order to expand and better operationalize underlying factors of fairness.

CONCLUSION


The degree to which adolescents see school as fair and moral is an important outcome in a democratized setting. It is edifying that students in these schools report that students who differed in race and ability were treated fairly. Subsequent work will help to establish the extent to which these findings describe many or only a few American schools.


Ultimately, research on fairness’ must be linked with broader issues of student actions and decisions. For example, Newmann, Wehlage, and Lamburn (1992) in an extensive research effort attempting to explore why students do or do not engage academic tasks, have included fairness as one of several variables related to a broad dimension they calls “school membership.” Subsequent research should more carefully integrate how students’ perceptions of fairness relate to other factors such as engagement, home-, work completion, sense of community, and attendance.


There is considerable pressure from both political parties for higher educational standards for students. Indeed, many politicians are calling for national standards. Much of this advocacy is done in an affective climate of “get tough” on students (e.g., no pass no play; no school performance, no driver’s license; zero tolerance programs; more homework). We think that the debate on student performance and how to enhance it could be profitably broadened (and balanced) by more inclusion of information about the internal aspects of schooling that help to promote an educational environment that students feel is both fair and genuine. Unfortunately policymakers often fail to consider the complex social aspects of being a learner (McCaslin, 1996) and often discuss educational progress as though it were an assembly line. Certainly, it is appropriate to expect that students develop a work ethic and engage a challenging curriculum. However, as we plan schooling for the twenty-first century, it is equally appropriate to examine the climate that American schools provide for students. It would seem that a sense of fairness is at least one of the prerequisites for students to fully embrace school challenges and learning opportunities.

APPENDIX A: HIGH SCHOOL FAIRNESS


F1 In your opinion, do you personally feel you are treated with “fairness” in high school?


A. Almost always

B. Sometimes

C. Often not

D. Almost never


F2 Do you feel that teachers show genuine concern for your learning?


A. Almost always

B. Sometimes

C. Often not

D. Almost never


F3 In general, how fair is this high school towards all students?


A. Almost always

B. Sometimes

C. Often not

D. Almost never


F4 In this school, if two different types of students (i.e., students from different groups) were sent to the principal’s office for the same offense, they would get the same punishment.


A. Almost always

B. Sometimes

C. Often not

D. Almost never

I. THINK OF FAIRNESS AND YOUR TEACHERS AND WHAT IT'S LIKE TO LEARN IN THIS SCHOOL.


F5 In my classes, my teachers treat everyone the same regardless of ability.


A. Almost always

B. Sometimes

C. Often not

D. Usually


F6 In my classes, my teachers give everyone the same opportunities in the classroom.


A. Almost always

B. Sometimes

C. Often not

D. Usually


F7 In my classes, my teachers reward students based on ability, not behavior.


A. Almost always

B. Sometimes

C. Often not

D. Usually


F8 In my classes, my teachers notice my hard work.


A. Almost always

B. Sometimes

C. Often not

D. Usually


F9 In my classes, my teachers care about my learning.


A. Almost always

B. Sometimes

C. Often not

D. Usually

II. NOW, THINK OF FAIRNESS AND YOUR ENTIRE SCHOOL COMMUNITY AND WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BELONG OR BE A MEMBER OF THIS SCHOOL.


F10 In my school, everyone gets equal punishment.


A. Almost always

B. Sometimes

C. Often not

D. Usually


F11 In my school, kids are punished based on the crime, not who they are.


A. Almost always

B. Sometimes

C. Often not

D. Usually


F12 In my school, one group of students gets better treatment than another.


A. Almost always

B. Sometimes

C. Often not

D. Usually


F13 In my school, students receive the same punishments no matter how much money their parents have.


A. Almost always

B. Sometimes

C. Often not

D. Usually


F14 In my school, students receive the same punishments no matter what color their skin is.


A. Almost always

B. Sometimes

C. Often not

D. Usually


F15 In my school, students are given the same opportunities to get good grades.


A. Almost always

B. Sometimes

C. Often not

D. Usually


F16 The rules are consistently enforced by the principal.


A. Almost always

B. Sometimes

C. Often not

D. Usually


F17 The rules are consistently enforced by the teachers.


A. Almost always

B. Sometimes

C. Often not

D. Usually


F18 There are clear rules to follow.


A. Almost always

B. Sometimes

C. Often not

D. Usually


F19 When students are punished in your school, approximately what percentage of those punishments do you feel are fair?


A. 0-20%

B. 21-40%

C. 41-60%

D. 61-80%

E. 81-100%


F20 Approximately, what percentage of your teachers treat you fairly?


A. 0-20%

B. 21-40%

C. 41-60%

D. 61-80%

E. 81-100%

APPENDIX B: MIDDLE-SCHOOL FAIRNESS


F1 In your opinion, do you personally feel you are treated with “fairness” in school?


A. Almost always

B. Usually

C. Not usually

D. Almost never


F2 Do you feel that teachers show genuine concern for your learning?


A. Almost always

B. Usually

C. Not usually

D. Almost never


F3 In general, how fair is this school towards all students?


A. Almost always

B. Usually

C. Not usually

D. Almost never


F4 In this school, if two different types of students (i.e., students from different groups) were sent to the principal’s office for the same offense, they would get the same consequence.


A. Almost always

B. Usually

C. Not usually

D. Almost never

I. THINK OF FAIRNESS AND YOUR TEACHERS AND WHAT IT’S LIKE TO LEARN IN THIS SCHOOL.


F5 In my classes, my teachers treat everyone the same regardless of ability.


A. Almost always

B. Usually

C. Not usually

D. Almost never


F6 In my classes, my teachers give everyone the same opportunities in the classroom.


A. Almost always

B. Usually

C. Not usually

D. Almost never


F7 In my classes, my teachers reward students based on ability, not behavior.


A. Almost always

B. Usually

C. Not usually

D. Almost never


F8 In my classes, my teachers notice my hard work.


A. Almost always

B. Usually

C. Not usually

D. Almost never


F9 In my classes, my teachers care about my learning.


A. Almost always

B. Usually

C. Not usually

D. Almost never


F10 In my classes, my teachers reward behaviors.


A. Almost always

B. Usually

C. Not usually

D. Almost never

II. NOW, THINK OF FAIRNESS AND YOUR ENTIRE SCHOOL COMMUNITY AND WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BELONG OR BE A MEMBER OF THIS SCHOOL.


F11 In my school, everyone gets equal consequences.


A. Almost always

B. Usually

C. Not usually

D. Almost never


F12 In my school, kids receive consequences based on the crime, not who they are.


A. Almost always

B. Usually

C. Not usually

D. Almost never


F13 In my school, one group of students gets better treatment than another.


A. Almost always

B. Usually

C. Not usually

D. Almost never


F14 In my school, students receive the same consequences no matter how much money their parents have.


A. Almost always

B. Usually

C. Not usually

D. Almost never


F15 In my school, students receive the same consequences no matter what color their skin is.


A. Almost always

B. Usually

C. Not usually

D. Almost never


F16 In my school, students are given the same opportunities to get good grades.


A. Almost always

B. Usually

C. Not usually

D. Almost never


F17 The rules are consistently enforced by the principals.


A. Almost always

B. Usually

C. Not usually

D. Almost never


F18 The rules are consistently enforced by the teachers.


A. Almost always

B. Usually

C. Not usually

D. Almost never


F19 There are clear rules to follow.


A. Almost always

B. Usually

C. Not usually

D. Almost never


F20 When students receive consequences in your school, approximately what percentage of them do you feel are fair?


A. 0-20%

B. 21-40%

C. 41-60%

D. 61-80%

E. 81-100%


F21 Approximately, what percentage of your teachers treat you fairly?


A. 0-20%

B. 21-40%

C. 41-60%

D. 61-80%

E. 81-100%

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 100 Number 2, 1998, p. 369-401
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10315, Date Accessed: 11/27/2021 9:26:23 PM

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About the Author
  • Sharon Nichols
    University of Arizona, Tucson
    E-mail Author
    Sharon L. Nichols is a doctoral student in educational psychology, University of Arizona, Tucson. Her research interests include the literacy of children and the development of critical thinking through peer dialogue and reflection.
  • Thomas Good
    University of Arizona, Tucson
    Thomas L. Good is professor of educational psychology at the University of Arizona, Tucson. His research interests include the communication of expectations in classroom settings and the informal school curriculum.
 
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