What your teaching practices say about your expectations

Teachers’ expectations of their students’ learning may be more important in influencing student progress than pupils’ abilities. ‘High expectation teachers’ believe that students will learn faster and will improve their level of achievement. They also have more positive attitudes towards learners and more effective teaching practices

What do your practices reflect about your beliefs about your students and their ability to learn?

You ask open questions: Your students are encouraged to give their own ideas more often. You believe your students have good ideas to offer: high expectations.

You praise correct answers: You focus on performance, rather than the effort that goes into learning. Your students become performance-oriented (if they are high achievers) or develop performance-avoidance strategies if they have difficulties with the content, with negative consequences for motivation and engagement. Students are not supported to understand how they can improve: low expectations.

You do lots of formative assessment and your feedback develops learning: Your feedback is instructional with information about achievement and the next steps for learning, so that the student is enabled to make better learning decisions. For example, you might give a student a range of possible next steps, and say, “We could work on this or we could work on that, what would you like to work on?” Students are empowered and motivated to make progress in their learning, at exactly the moment that they are ready: high expectations.

You rephrase questions when answers are incorrect so that students are enabled to be successful, and to guide strategies for success: high expectations.

You use ability groupings to match instruction and activities to students’ differing learning needs: Your students are aware of differentiation and it has an effect on their motivation and their self-perceptions of achievement. Students have less freedom to make individual progress as they are constrained by the activities set for them: low expectations. 

You extend high-achieving students with advanced activities and applications of skills and knowledge: Your students are aware of differentiation and it has an effect on their motivation and self-perceptions of achievement. It appears to the class that some students have more privilege or teacher esteem, because high achievers are trusted with some autonomy but low achievers are constrained to highly regulated teacher-set activities: low expectations.

You support low achievers by using a slower instructional pace, lots of repetition and review of prior learning. Low achievers’ progress is confined to the pace at which their learning is presented to them: low expectations.

You provide a range of learning activities and give students choice because you believe that if low achievers can become more motivated and engaged, their achievement will increase. You believe lack of achievement is due to a lack of motivation and effort, and not constrained by a lack of ability: high expectations.

You provide a clear framework for learning in terms of learning intentions and success criteria, so that students are cognitively and behaviourally engaged and can be trusted to manage their own learning: high expectations.

You set individual goals with students that are specific, regularly revisited and revised as students make progress. Student learning progresses at the individual student’s pace, rather than being constrained to a carefully planned progression implemented by the teacher, remaining focused on mastering one learning outcome until the entire group has achieved it. Individual learning goals help students get engaged in learning and intrinsically motivated, and help develop students’ independence: high expectations.