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Smith, A.E., L. Jussim, Jacquelynne S. Eccles, M. VanNoy, S. Madon, and P. Palumbo. 1998. "Self-Fulfilling prophecies, perceptual biases, and accuracy at the individual and group levels." Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 34(6), 530-561.
We examined ability grouping as a moderator of self-fulfilling prophecies in two ways. First, we examined ability group moderation for individual students with data from 1701 students and 97 teachers from sixth-grade math classes. Second, we examined ability group moderation at the class level with data from 108 sixth-grade math classes. Across both sets of analyses, results showed that: (1) teacher perceptions predicted student achievement primarily because those perceptions were accurate; (2) teacher perceptions biased marks for students in heterogenous classes (consistent with perceptual bias); and (3) self-fulfilling prophecies were strongest when students were grouped within classes. We also found that teacher perceptions mediated the relationship between within-class ability grouping and student achievement. Implications for understanding accuracy, the power of self-fulfilling prophecies, and group level perceptions are discussed.