Equity theory €“by J. Stacy Adams

We all have an innate sense of right and wrong, fairness or unfairness, and, in essence, seek some form or level of social justice. This determination is based upon our interpretation of two comparative sets of situations that we have experienced. These experiences motivate us to act out certain behaviours or take some form of action in response to emotions felt. For example, when parents pay a higher price for tuition for their children, the value attached to the education is greater, because of the perceived expectation of the worth of the institution which is relative to the price paid. Should this expectation prove contrary to their belief, the general feeling would be that they had been cheated. The belief is that there should be some measurable difference of value to justify the expense.

In a classroom environment, the treatment of one student will naturally be expected by other students. Should this not be the case, students will react by displaying disruptive behaviours because the treatment received is a direct violation of their basic expectations for consistent and equitable treatment.

In the classroom this means that the teacher must exercise fairness in all their dealings with students, and whatever treatment is given to one must be given to all. The idea that teachers often €œplay favourites€ is a common cry from many students. In order to avoid this label, a teacher must be alert to the possibility of being perceived by the students as unfair.