Teachers’ expectations of their students’ learning may be more important in influencing student progress than pupils’ abilities.
Teachers’ beliefs about their students and what they can achieve have a substantial impact on students’ learning and progress. Research shows that as well as expectations about individual students, teachers can be identified as having uniformly high or low expectations of an entire class of students. High expectation teachers believe that students will make accelerated, rather than normal, progress, and that pupils will move above their current level of performance (for example, from average to above average). Whereas, in general, low expectation teachers do not expect their students to make significant changes to their level of achievement over a year’s tuition.
Teachers’ expectations of their students have substantial impacts on student progress and achievement. This is because teachers’ different levels of expectations lead to different instructional practices. For example, teachers with low expectations for students’ achievement may present less cognitively demanding experiences, spend more time reinforcing and repeating information, accept a lower standard of work, and emphasise rules and procedures. Low expectations set up a chain of low-level activities and, therefore, lower learning opportunities. When teachers’ expectations increase, their attitudes, beliefs, and teaching practices change. In general, high expectation teachers employ more effective teaching practices. When students are given more advanced opportunities to learn, they can make more progress.
Research also shows that students are very aware of their teachers’ expectations for them. Students of teachers with low expectations come to view themselves more negatively, while students with high expectation teachers develop or maintain positive attitudes across the year, even when they have only made average progress.
There have been several longitudinal studies conducted in New Zealand exploring how teachers’ expectations of their students influence achievement. It is well-established that teachers’ expectations of their students influence their teaching practices and impact on students’ self-beliefs and student achievement.
High expectations teachers:
- Create a warm, supportive classroom climate
- Get to know their students personally and incorporate their interests into activities
- Work with students to set challenging learning goals
- Provide carefully targeted feedback to assist students in reaching their goals
- Group children flexibly in small groups, comprising of a range of abilities, and change these groupings reasonably frequently
- Structure your classroom so that differentiation between high and low achievers and the kinds of learning experiences they engage in are minimised
- Do you expect all your students to be equally capable of learning?
- How do you currently group students in your classroom?
- Do you provide opportunities for all learners to engage in advanced activities?
- How do you get to know your students?
- Do you provide all of your learners with a range of activities?
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