Influence of Avatar Choice on Teacher Expectations and Perceptions of Student Success

Influence of Avatar Choice on Teacher Expectations and Perceptions of Student Success

Dennis Beck (University of Arkansas, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/jgcms.2012010101
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The gender and ethnicity of students have been shown to affect teacher expectations. As part of a Multi User Virtual Environment (MUVE), people socially interact via avatars that have the capability to be customized to details of ethnicity and gender. Teachers in MUVEs instruct students with little knowledge of potential biases and prejudices toward avatars of different genders and ethnicities. This study’s purpose was to examine the influence of student avatar choice of gender and ethnicity on teachers’ expectations. Teachers were asked to review a transcript, image, and video of a student avatar and then respond about the student’s intellectual and relational abilities. Results indicate that avatar gender and ethnicity influence teachers’ expectations. Results may help teachers discover potential biases and prejudices toward some student avatars, as well as level the playing field for student avatars of differing genders and ethnicities.
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In related research from the realm of computer mediated communication (CMC), some scholars developed the equalization hypothesis – the idea that CMC induces a state of ‘disembodiment’ that would act to dissolve negative stereotypes toward those of differing gender and ethnicity (Dubrovsky, Kiesler, & Sethna, 1991; Kang, 2000; Kiesler, Siegel, & McGuire, 1984). For example, Sproull and Kiesler (1991) demonstrated gender-related equalization effects of CMC group interaction. These and other findings suggested that physical isolation and visual anonymity contributed to equalizing group interaction by minimizing anticipated disadvantage or threats associated with one’s social identity (Bordia, 1997; Connolly, Jessup, & Valacich, 1990).

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