Vol. 65 No. 3 (2017)

Names, Grades, and Metamorphosis: A Small-Scale Socio-onomastic Investigation into the Effects of Ethnicity and Gender-Marked Personal Names on the Pedagogical Assessments of a Grade School Essay

Published 2017-07-03


  • pet-naming practices,
  • terms of endearment,
  • Chinese,
  • onomastics


In this small-scale, mixed-method investigation, the potential presence of school teacher and teacher trainees’ name-based biases in reaction to schoolchildren’s first names was investigated in two experiments. In the first, German school teachers were asked to qualitatively and quantitatively assess an authentic literary essay written by a monolingual native-speaking German schoolchild. To test for possible name biases, three nearly identical versions of the essay were prepared. The only difference between them was the first names of the child listed as having authored the essay (Uwe, Achilleas, and Mustafa). In the second experiment, the set of personal names was expanded to include female first names (i.e. Heike, Athena, and Fatma) and the study participants were volunteer teacher trainees. In both experiments, evidence for covert name biases was identified. On the basis of these and other findings, the article concludes with concrete suggestions for future research. Chief among these recommendations is a call for more collaborative action research between university faculty and students.


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