Expectations

In 1965 a pair of researchers, Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson, set out to study the Pygmalion Effect, which hypothesizes that if we hold high expectations for people’s performance, their performance will be better than if we hold low expectations.

Setting up the Pygmalion Effect

Rosenthal & Jacobson, 1968

 

What they found was startling, especially for younger kids. Students who had been randomly selected as being likely to show potential based on an imaginary test and then this information communicated to their teachers, showed tremendous gains in the intellectual ability compared to the control group.

Rosenthal and Jacobson, 1968

Rosenthal and Jacobson, 1968

 

The reverse effect, called the Golem Effect, has also found to have an impact through randomized-control-sample experimental design. This means that one factor into student performance is the expectations teachers have, either high or low, on that student performance.

 

 

This is why I get incredibly frustrated when teachers use labels like “high” or “low” to describe their students. Invariably these labels are like self-fulfilling prophesies that lead to strengthening or weakening student beliefs about their own ability to be successful and lead to teachers, subconsciously, taking actions that lead to either higher or lower student performance, and as performance is related to student learning, this can be devastating.

Of course, this pernicious labeling of students is built right into our systems of education so we can hardly consider individual teachers to be at fault. We have the ELL students, the SpEd students, the “lower third”, the students who only achieved a 1 or a 2 on the NY state exam, the students who failed algebra last semester, and other unhelpful labels for students ad nauseam.

 

So what do we do? I propose a good starting place is to eliminate unhelpful labels from our own vocabulary. Another step is to talk to our colleagues about our shared use of labels for students. Find ways to look for and talk about strengths in students rather than perceived deficits.

 

 

 


The future of CLIME

CLIME (The Council for Technology in Math Education) is an affiliate of NCTM with the mission to: Empower math communities to improve the teaching and learning of math through the use of dynamic tools in a Web 2.0 world Last night members of CLIME and other interested people attended a meeting of CLIME to discuss […]


Making Mathematical Ideas Explicit

If you or your students are going to talk about mathematical ideas in your class, it is critical that everyone understands the idea being discussed otherwise they are less likely to either remember it or be able to participate in the discussion. Every time you or your students make logical leaps when explaining mathematical ideas, […]


Why Instructional Routines?

In our project, we organized our work this past year around the use of instructional routines (née instructional activities) with teachers. Our curriculum work has been largely focused on instructional routines, our professional development activities have been focused on instructional routines, our school-based work in some cases has shifted to focus on supporting teams using instructional […]


Teaching Problems or Teaching Mathematics

On the day before I first started teaching, the district coordinator came to me and handed me a piece of paper with twenty questions on it. “Here’s what you have to teach, David. If your students can answer all twenty of these questions by the end of the year, you will be fine.” Needless to […]


Planning Lessons

When I first started planning lessons, each lesson took ages to plan. I don’t really remember exactly what I wrote except that usually the lessons were based on choosing example problems to go over, producing a worksheet for students to work on, and assigning homework questions. Eventually I finally had some textbooks for students and […]


What is Ambitious Teaching?

A recent analysis by David Blazar has stirred up some interest about Ambitious Teaching. But what exactly is Ambitious Teaching?   According to Elham Kazemi, Megan Franke, and Magdalene Lampert: “Ambitious teaching requires that teachers teach in response to what students do as they engage in problem solving performances, all while holding students accountable to […]


Participation in math class

Nothing you can do can guarantee that every child actively participates in your math class but there are some things you can do to increase the odds. In a typical classroom a teacher asks a question, a student responds, the teacher indicates whether the response is incorrect or correct, and this is repeated until the […]


Why is it important for students to talk to each other in math class?

Why should students talk to each other in math class anyway? I was asked this question recently and I’m trying to avoid a tautological answer (eg. it’s important because it’s important). In a classroom where students speak to each other about mathematics, the ideas of those students are valued instead of ignored or potentially marginalized. […]


Coherent conversations about teaching

Imagine four teachers each of whom teaches in different schools in a different context. Even if they all teach the same course, their individual teaching looks different. If these four people come to talk together, they will find it challenging to have a conversation since the way they are teaching is so different from each […]