“Slaying Ghosts in the Room:” Identity Contingencies, Teacher Licensure Testing Events, and African American Preservice Teachers

Jul. 01, 2014

Source: Teachers College Record Volume 116 Number 7, 2014, p. 1-40

This study examined the subjective and social psychological ways African American test takers experience teacher licensure testing events.

The study drew from the social psychological constructs of identity contingencies and situational cues to analyze students’ experiences in the testing event.

Participants in this study were 22 African American preservice teachers attending a predominantly and historically Black institution in the northeastern United States. Each of the participants took the paper format basic skills exam in either the spring 2009 or spring 2010 national administration.

Drawing from culturally sensitive research practice, this study used a qualitative case study research design to explore test takers’ experiences in the testing event.


Findings illustrate how the licensure testing event can become a racialized experience for some participants through (a) interactions with test proctors and site administrators before and during examinations and (b) actions of other test takers that inadvertently signaled racial stereotypes about test preparation, intelligence, and character. Racialized experiences for participants were not based upon any specific test questions or content.

Findings are discussed in light of previous research to suggest that these experiences have the capacity to produce a host of cognitive and affective states that undermine performance.

Updated: Aug. 31, 2016