Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Educational Psychology


Helen Johnson

Committee Members

Jay Verkuilen

Eva Fernandez

Subject Categories

Educational Psychology


racial bias, implicit racial bias, teacher education, classroom discipline


Teachers often hold lower academic and behavioral expectations for Black students, and they are more likely to make a disciplinary referral for Black students than their white peers for similar infractions. The mechanism underlying this may be teachers’ implicit attitudes about their Black students based on causal attributions. This study examined the connection between teacher implicit racial attitudes and how teachers label potentially disruptive classroom behaviors, addressing two research questions: How are teacher education students’ (TES) implicit racial attitude scores on an implicit bias test related to perceptions about student behavioral challenges in the classroom, and how does this relation affect their decisions to refer students for disciplinary action? The study looked at teacher education students (N=233) who completed three sets of tests: the racial bias section of the Implicit Assessment Test; a set of questions assessing causal attribution based on four vignettes depicting student misbehaviors in a classroom setting; and a demographic questionnaire. This study predicted that TES who scored higher on the racial bias IAT would be more likely to recommend Black students for disciplinary referral. While the hypotheses couldn’t be confirmed, there was evidence that regardless of implicit bias, TES were more likely to believe that Black students had an internal locus of causality and controllability than their white counterparts when presented with similar instances of disordered behavior. Ultimately, this study adds to the literature on TES racial attitudes and the effect of these on their classroom interactions with their students.