Sunday, March 22, 2015

Teachers' Expectations, High or Low, are Always Met

In our teacher training, we're taught the concept of the Pygmalion effect. We learn that students will live up to the expectations that are placed upon them. When teachers have high expectations for students, the teachers unconsciously give more positive attention, feedback, and learning opportunities to students. 

Learning information like this prepares teachers for the day when they walk into the classroom and stand in front of 25 students and make a first impression. That first impression that is made will come from the teacher's belief about the students prior to that moment. And what about the subsequent days. Over time, the longer a teacher is in the classroom, do the teacher's beliefs about students fade, get higher, or even change completely? Each day, the teacher's expectations will be communicated through body language, tone of voice, inflections, and word choice.

Invariably, in the classroom a teacher's expectations will be met. 

  • If a teacher expects students not to do their homework, they won't. 
  • If a teacher expects he or she will have to raise his or her voice to get students to behave, he will.
  • If a teacher expects students to try their best, they will.
  • If a teacher expects students to misbehave, they will. 
  • If a teacher expects that he or she will enjoy learning about the students - as people - while helping them to learn, he or she will.

In your classroom, what if you find that your students and the classroom are not meeting your expectations? What can you do?

Here are some questions for self-reflection:

  • Do I separate the student from the behavior?
  • If I can't change the students, how can I change my view of them?
  • Can I do anything to improve the outcome?
  • Am I teachable?

What's been your experience with teacher expectations?


  1. What an awesome privilege, and sacred responsibility we have to lead our students. To set the expectations. Perhaps the most salient point, is the question, "Am I teachable"?
    Bravo, Jen!

    1. Well said, Greg. It IS a privilege and responsibility, one that cannot be minimized, taken for granted, or overlooked. The best teachers are always learning and leading. Thanks for your comment!

  2. What a great reminder for us that our expectations can mean so much to a student. I think the same can be said for a staff. If a principal has high expectations and that the staff can "change the world" then they will rise to the challenge as well (and bring their students with them!). Thank you for sharing:)


    1. Jon, thank you for bringing up that point. Leadership happens at all kinds of levels within a school, and expectations must remain high across the board. Educators CAN change the world!

  3. Positive expectations always work best. To make any other choice is a low expectation and simply unacceptable. We act in service, not obligation and are fortunate to have this amazing opportunity. Brave post, Jennifer. Reposted on my FB wall.