A Classroom Survey of Language Teachers’ Discriminatory Practices against Students: Causes, Consequences and Keys

  • Seyyed Hatam Tamimi Sa'd PhD Candidate at Purdue University, USA
  • Olga Quiñónez Eames Odyssey House, USA
Keywords: discriminatory practices, English as a foreign language classrooms, language learners, language teachers, discrimination


Previous research confirms that individuals frequently become subject to various forms of discrimination for a variety of reasons. This study aimed at revealing the incidence of discrimination toward English as a Foreign Language students, the grounds on which it happens, its adverse effects on students as well as potential solutions to it. The data were collected through questionnaires and were further supported by interviews and classroom observations. The participants consisted of sixty-five Iranian students from a variety of ethnic, linguistic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. The findings indicated that nearly one-third of the students had experienced discrimination of one form or another. Students’ perceptions of discrimination were that it is based on skin colour, age, sex, social class, as well as political and religious beliefs. Furthermore, the findings showed that discrimination was perceived to have a negative bearing on students’ motivation and their overall ability by adversely affecting their class attendance, sense of responsibility, class performance, and assignment completion. It was found that teachers overtly discriminated against students by openly mocking them, neglecting to call on them for class participation, and unfairly assessing the students and their achievements. Some suggestions to raise awareness of implicit attitudes and biases, identify and end the practice of discrimination among English as a Foreign Language teachers included setting up teacher education programmes, raising learners’ awareness, raising teachers’ awareness of their responsibilities and students’ rights, institutional warning, punishing ‘discriminating’ teachers, and suspending teachers from work.


Download data is not yet available.


Alim, H. S. (2003). “We are the streetsâ€: African American language and the strategic construction of a street conscious identity. In S. Makoni, G. Smitherman, A. F. Ball, & A. K. Spears (Eds.), Black linguistics: Language, society, and politics in Africa and the Americas (pp. 40-59). Routledge.

Allen, R. L. (2004). Whiteness and critical pedagogy. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 36(2), 121–136.

Bell, D. A. (1995). Who is afraid of critical race theory? University of Illinois Law Review, 1995, 893–910.

Bonilla-Silva, E. (2005). ‘Racism’ and ‘New Racism’: The contours of racial dynamics in contemporary America. In Z. Leonardo (Ed.), Critical pedagogy and race (pp. 1–35). Blackwell Publishing.

Burr, V. (2006). An introduction to social constructionism. Routledge.

Chin, W. Y. (2010). Linguistic profiling in education: How accent bias denies equal educational opportunities to students of color. Scholar, 12, 355–443.

Chisholm, I. M. (1994). Preparing teachers for multi-cultural classrooms. The Journal of Educational Issues of Language Minority Students, 14, 43–68. www.ncela.edstudies.net

Chou, H. (2007). Multi-cultural teacher education: Toward a culturally responsible pedagogy. Essays in Education, 21, 139–162.

Cook, V. (1999). Going beyond the native speaker in language teaching. TESOL Quarterly, 33(2), 185–209.

Cotterill, J. (2003). Language and power in court: A linguistic analysis of the O. J. Simpson trial. Palgrave Mcmillan.

Darvin, R., & Norton, B. (2014). Social class, identity, and migrant students. Journal of Language, Identity and Education, 13(2), 111–117.

Delgado, R., & Stefancic, J. (2001). Critical race theory: An introduction. New York University Press.

Despagne, C. (2013). An investigation into identity, power and autonomous EFL learning among indigenous and minority students in post-secondary education: A Mexican case study. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation. University of Western Ontario, Canada.

Dörnyei, Z., & Ushioda, E. (Eds.) (2009). Motivation, language identity and the L2 self. Multi-lingual Matters.

Fought, C. (2006). Language and ethnicity. Cambridge University Press.

Friedman, D. A. (2012). How to collect and analyze qualitative data. In A. Mackey & S. M. Gass (Eds.), Research methods in second language acquisition (pp. 180–200). Blackwell Publishing.

Gillborn, D., & Ladson-Billings, G. (2010). Education and critical race theory. In M. W. Apple, S. J. Ball, & L. A. Gandin (Eds.), The Routledge international handbook of the sociology of education (pp. 37–47). Routledge.

Goodman, S., & Rowe, L. (2014). ‘Maybe it is prejudice … but it is NOT racism’: Negotiating racism in discussion forums about Gypsies. Discourse & Society, 25(1), 32–46.

Holliday, A. (2009). English as a lingua franca, ‘non-native speakers’ and cosmopolitan realities. In F. Sharifian (Ed.), English as an international language (pp. 21–33). Multi-lingual Matters.

Ibrahim, A. (1999). Becoming black: Rap and hip-hop, race, gender, identity, and the politics of ESL learning. TESOL Quarterly, 33(3), 349–368.

James, M., & Woll, B. (2004). Black deaf or deaf black? Being black and deaf in Britain. In A. Pavlenko & A. Blackledge (Eds.), Negotiation of identities in multi-lingual contexts (pp. 125–160). Multi-lingual Matters.

Kubota, R. (2001). Discursive constructions of the images of U.S. classrooms. TESOL Quarterly, 35(1), 9–38.

Kumaravadivelu, B. (2003). Problematising cultural stereotypes in TESOL. TESOL Quarterly, 37(4), 709–719.

Kumaravadivelu, B. (2006). Understanding language teaching: From method to postmethod. Lawrence Erlbaum.

Labov, W. (1969). The logic of non-standard English. Georgetown Monographs on Language and Linguistics, 22, 1–44.

Lippi-Green, R. (1994). Accent, standard language ideology, and discriminatory pretext in the courts. Language in Society, 23(2), 163–198.

Lippi-Green, R. (2012). English with an accent: Language, ideology and discrimination in the United States. Routledge.

Litosseliti, L. (2013). Gender and language: Theory and practice. Routledge.

Lurda, E. (2009). Attitudes towards English as an international language: The pervasiveness of native models among L2 users and teachers. In F. Sharifian (Ed.), English as an international language (pp. 119–134). Multi-lingual Matters.

MacIntyre, P. D., Mackinnon, S. P., & Clément, R. (2009). The baby, the bathwater, and the future of language learning motivation research. In Z. Dörnyei & E. Ushioda (Eds.), Motivation, language identity and the L2 self (pp. 43–65). Multi-lingual Matters.

Mackey, A., & Gass, S. M. (2005). Second language research. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Madrid, D. (2011). Racial and social discrimination in the EFL class: The case of the Roma minority. Porta Linguarum, 15, 71–91.

Marks, M. B., & Heffernan-Cabrera, P. (1977). Teachers’ attitudes towards minority group students-Is Pygmalion turning the tables? TESOL Quarterly, 11(4), 401–406.

Morley, L. (2010). Momentum and melancholia: Women in higher education internationally. In M. W. Apple, S. J. Ball, & L. A. Gandin (Eds.), The Routledge international handbook of the sociology of education (pp. 384–395). Routledge.

Nguyen, B. B. (1994). Accent discrimination and the test of spoken English: A call for an objective assessment of the comprehensibility of non-native speakers. Asian American Law Journal, 1(1), 117–153.

Noels, K. A. (2009). The internalisation of language learning into the self and social identity. In Z. Dörnyei & E. Ushioda (Eds.), Motivation, language identity and the L2 self (pp. 295–313). Multi-lingual Matters.

Norton, B. (1993). Language learning, social identity, and immigrant women. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. University of Toronto, Canada.

Norton, B. (1995). Learning the hard way: Maria’s story. In B. Kanpol & P. McLaren (Eds.), Critical multiculturalism: Uncommon voices in a common struggle (pp. 165–176). Bergin & Garvey.

Norton, B. (2000). Identity and language learning: Gender, ethnicity and educational change. Longman/Pearson Education.

Palfreyman, D. (2005). Othering in an English language programme. TESOL Quarterly, 39(2), 211–233.

Pickering, M. (2004). Racial stereotypes. In G. Taylor & S. Spencer (Eds.), Social identities: Multidisciplinary approaches (pp. 91–106). Routledge.

Reisigl, M., & Wodak, R. (2001). Discourse and discrimination: Rhetorics of racism and antisemitism. Routledge.

Rich, S., & Troudi, S. (2006). Hard times: Arab TESOL students’ experiences of racialization and othering in the United Kingdom. TESOL Quarterly, 40(3), 615–627.

Seider, S. C., & Hillman, A. (2011). Challenging privileged college students’ othering language in community service learning. Journal of College & Character, 12(3), 1–7. http://journals.naspa.org/jcc/

Sengstock, M. C. (2009). Voices of diversity multi-culturalism in America. Springer.

Shor, I. (1992). Empowering education: Critical teaching for social change. The University of Chicago Press.

Solórzano, D. G. (1998). Critical race theory, race and gender microaggressions, and the experience of Chicana and Chicano scholars. Qualitative Studies in Education, 11(1), 121–136.

Sunderland, J. (1992). Gender in the EFL classroom. ELT Journal, 46(1), 81–91.

Tamimi Sa’d, S. H., & Modirkhamene, S. (2015). Examining Acculturation Model in an EFL context: Learners’ attitudes towards target language accent vs. L1 accent. GEMA Online® Journal of Language Studies, 15(1), 25–38. http://journalarticle.ukm.my/8257/1/5373-22053-1-PB_(1).pdf

Taylor, L. (2004). Creating a community of difference: understanding gender and race in a high school anti-discrimination camp. In B. Norton & A. Pavlenko (Eds.), Gender and English language learners (pp. 95–109). Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages.

Tevis, M. M. (2012). Mexican American civil rights leaders and discrimination in South Texas schools. Journal of Philosophy & History of Education, 62(1), 95–105.

Tsui, A. B. M. (2007). Complexities of identity formation: A narrative inquiry of an EFL teacher. TESOL Quarterly, 41(4), 657–680.

Van Dijk, T. A. (2005). Racism and discourse in Spain and Latin America. John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Van Dijk, T. A. (2009). Society and discourse: How social contexts influence text and talk. Cambridge University Press.

Wortham, S. (2008). Shifting identities in the classroom. In C. R. Caldas-Coulthard & R. Iedema (Eds.), Identity trouble: Critical discourse and contested identities (pp. 205–228). Palgrave Macmillan.

How to Cite
Tamimi Sa’d, S. H., & Quiñónez EamesO. (2021). A Classroom Survey of Language Teachers’ Discriminatory Practices against Students: Causes, Consequences and Keys. Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal, 11(1), 91-114. https://doi.org/10.26529/cepsj.541