Sunday, September 23, 2012

Teachers’ Expectations

When I arrived at work last week, several people were excitedly talking about the NPR piece they’d heard on the radio during their drive in. Here is a link to the Morning Edition show, Teachers’ Expectations Can Influence How Students Perform, which aired September 17.

I recommend listening to the audio, but you can also read the transcript. Back in 1964, Harvard professor Robert Rosenthal began studying how teachers’ expectations influence student achievement.

[Rosenthal] found that expectations affect teachers' moment-to-moment interactions with the children they teach in a thousand almost invisible ways. Teachers give the students that they expect to succeed more time to answer questions, more specific feedback, and more approval: They consistently touch, nod and smile at those kids more.

"It's not magic, it's not mental telepathy," Rosenthal says. "It's very likely these thousands of different ways of treating people in small ways every day."

It is difficult to truly change our beliefs, but there is a way. Recent studies have shown that teachers who actively worked on their teaching through videotape analysis and targeted work with coaches in their classrooms to change their behavior also experienced a significant shift their beliefs about students.