Tuesday, April 30, 2013 - 11:09am

Some great new research published out of the department of sociology, concerning the signals teachers get from students and how teacher perceptions shape student performance:

Elementary school students bring varied skills and experience to the classroom, commonly referred to as cultural capital. And when teachers notice and value these skills, students do better in school.

A new University of Georgia study, published in the April issue of the journal Sociology of Education, expands the notion of cultural capital to include a digital dimension, demonstrating that computer fluency is as important of a signal to teachers as visiting museums and attending concerts.

"We know that cultural capital matters, that teachers like to know about kids doing well outside the home and bringing that into the classroom," said study co-author Linda Renzulli, associate professor in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences department of sociology. "But maybe we need to update cultural capital and think about this other piece of information teachers are gaining about students, which isn't the ballet and isn't travel. It's actually digital capital."

In a society as broad and diverse as the U.S., inequality is a perennial issue - though it's simply not the case, as some ideologues would have it, of trying to create some uniform set of experiences for every person. Equality of opportunity is another matter, and the more we learn about how to help provide this for all young students, no matter their personal circumstances, the better-able they will be to discover their person potential and grow up to make their unique, positive contributions to society.

Image: via Wikimedia Commons, used by permission of an Art Libre license.