Students that reenter school from being in juvenile detention navigate many challenges. One such challenge is forming relationships with their teachers. Past research has found that folks socially distance themselves from individuals with stigmatized identities such as formerly incarcerated students which can lead teachers to be less likely to build relationships with these students. We conducted an experimental study (N = 315) to understand how teachers can be oriented toward establishing positive teacher-student relationships with formerly incarcerated students. Teachers were randomly assigned to either an experimental condition in which they read about a hypothetical student that was returning to school and participating in a program called “Lifting the Bar'' that would help them make a smooth transition or to a control condition in which they only read about the student returning to school. Next, teachers responded to both open-ended and self-report questionnaires that gauged their perceptions and reactions to the hypothetical student. Participants' open-ended responses were first analyzed using thematic analysis to determine the consistent themes that emerged across responses. Afterwards, independent coders (blind to condition assignment) rated the responses for the presence of the themes. If coders’ ratings reached an acceptable level of interrater agreement, then their ratings were averaged to create participants’ scores for each theme. Subsequently, natural language processing techniques were utilized to count the number of times participants mentioned the hypothetical student’s name i their responses. Our analyses found that participants in the experimental condition wrote responses that included more themes related to willingness to build a relationship with the student, socially supporting the student, socially integrating the student, getting the student’s perspective to assist their transition, and implementing strategies to build a relationship with the student and mention the students name more frequently in comparison to participants in the control condition. Our findings suggest that teachers are more likely to be motivated to build relationships with formerly incarcerated students when they are participating in a program that will assist the student in their transition back to school.
Bio: Michael Ruiz is the manager of the Equity, Diversity, and Empathy Navigation Sciences lab in the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. Michael utilizes social psychology to develop interventions at the student and teacher level that reduce racial and social class achievement gaps in education. Moreover, he uses quantitative and qualitative methods to understand the processes that affect marginalized students' academic motivation.