Teaching, Learning, and Race: Identifying the Mechanisms Underlying Own- and Other-race Teacher Effects
Cynthia Pollard

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Harvard University

Primary Discipline

Over fifty years after the "The Coleman Report" revealed the extent of the disparity between the learning outcomes of students of color and their White peers, the racial achievement gap remains one of the most troubling issues in education. While educators, policymakers, and researchers continue to debate the causes and solutions to the gap, a growing collection of studies from educational economists has recently suggested that Black students learn at higher rates when they are taught by Black teachers. However, little research has explored what classroom mechanisms may be driving these effects. In my dissertation, I aim to help address this gap with two experimental studies that draw on the intersection of critical education theory and social psychology. The first study focuses on teachers, and tests whether and how their instructional decisions differ for Black versus White students, and whether this difference is related to implicit bias. The second study focuses on high school students, and tests whether and how their learning processes are affected when taught by an own- versus other-race teacher. Findings from these studies may together improve understanding of how teachers' and students' race affect teaching and learning, and what classrooms conditions are most conducive to the learning and motivation of students of color.
About Cynthia Pollard
Cynthia Pollard is a doctoral student in Human Development, Learning and Teaching at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She is interested in the role that teachers and teaching play in reinforcing or challenging race- and class-based inequality in K ? 12 classrooms. Her dissertation examines how teacher and student race?and the interaction between the two?affect instructional decision-making and student learning. Cynthia holds a bachelor's degree from the University of California Los Angeles and a master's degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She previously taught elementary school in Los Angeles.

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