Education professor's study nominated for Article of the Year award

Contact: Chris Hybels

Dr. Summer Davis

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—A Western Michigan University instructor's school psychology research is being lauded at the national level.

Dr. Summer Davis, an assistant professor of secondary education, was nominated for the National Association of School Psychologists' 2023 Article of the Year for her work on "'It’s the Teacher’s Responsibility:' Examining Pre-service and In-service Teachers’ Responses to Racial Discrimination," published in the Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation. 

The National Association of School Psychologists champions school psychology, empowering professionals with best practices to enhance student learning, behavior and mental well-being. Additionally, the association ensures ethical conduct through rigorous standards. The organization's Article of the Year award recognizes articles that have made a significant contribution to the field of school psychology.

"I’m very grateful for the leadership efforts of Dr. Blair Baker, Cleveland State University, as well as the assistance of the co-authors in this publication. In a time when there has been increasing pushback by some on efforts to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion, I’m heartened the editors of the Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation and the National Association of School Psychologists recognize the importance of this empirical study to support efforts in K-12 schools and across teacher, administrative and support services education to address issues of race and racialized discrimination," says Davis.

Davis and her co-author's article explored, through in-depth interviews, how pre-service and in-service teachers would hypothetically respond to a situation of racial discrimination against a Black student. The study also investigated if these teachers' racial attitudes, particularly color-blindness, influenced their intervention approaches. Their findings suggested there is a willingness to intervene and the teachers' justifications and planned actions often revealed underlying biases or a color-blind perspective.

"While it is encouraging to note the majority of teachers surveyed purported they would intervene to rectify the classroom incident, the study shares how well-meaning responses, quick responses, often do more harm than good. Several teachers focused on using language of kindness, being nice or empathy alongside of admonishing racist rhetoric. Yet, the teachers often did not share ways to engage the individual students or entire classroom in further, more nuanced discussion. In fact, many teachers directly avoided naming race in a situation where overt racial discrimination had taken place," says Davis.

"The implications of this study point to a need for teacher training and consultation frameworks to address the role of color-blind attitudes and simplistic language in educator approaches to peer racial discrimination to cultivate healthier school climates."

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