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Standard language ideology and the potential for bias in middle school classrooms

West, Courtney
In this study, I aimed to find in what ways teachers' were aware of the potential for bias against non-standard dialects in the classroom, and what ways this awareness or lack thereof displayed in teaching practices. Since the standard language ideology is so prevalent, there is potential for bias against non-standard dialects in the classroom. The PASS Standards for Oklahoma exhibit this ideology as well, encouraging teachers to use this ideology in instruction. The standard language ideology is a bias toward "standard English" over that of other dialects.
There were three different participants in this study, all middle school teachers in middle Oklahoma. They participated in an interview, allowed me to observe one class period, and provided documents (anonymized and coded graded papers, rubrics, assignment sheets) for analysis. The questions in the interview were meant to gage teachers' attitudes towards language and grammar and attitudes toward non-standard dialects, as well as awareness of potential for bias. The observation was meant to observe grammar instruction or to see how teachers used language in the classroom. I was able to see how teachers corrected students and what kind of errors they corrected verbally. When analyzing graded papers, I looked for which errors teachers corrected and on which students' papers they emphasized correction. Since the papers were anonymized and coded for gender and ethnicity, I was able to see on what papers teachers graded differently.
The results of this study showed that each participant was unaware of the potential for bias against non-standards dialects, and this bias displayed, albeit in different ways for each participant. Teachers generally believed that their students' language was lacking and that by being able to speak "standard" English, their students' prospects would improve. With this standard language ideology, teachers may sometimes display subtle biases against non-standard dialect speakers in instruction, correction, and assessment.