** Not your ordinary, endless list – just what’s number 1.
The teacher’s own expectation of the students.
Yep, that’s right. Teachers who think their students are smart will have smart students (all things equal). It is the factor that is most important regarding student achievement.
I asked my teachers about what they thought was the most important teaching factor affecting student achievement. Most mentioned motivation, some classroom management factors, a few curriculum/materials. Many rightly suggested school culture. However not one (and I have 160 students) got it right nor had heard about the seminal research of Rosenthal and Jacobsen.Teachers’ Expectancies: Determinants of Pupil’s IQ.pdf
Their research raised more questions than it answered. Stimulating reading and subsequently tested and validated. They set up a simple experiment where teachers were (wrongly) told their students in “x” classes (18 of them) were smart and high achievers. They were actually quite average and chosen at random. They controlled other factors. The result? Students in the classes where the teacher “believed” they were top students suddenly became top students! All simply because the teacher thought they were teaching the cream of the crop.
They concluded that this happens most often with younger students. Also, there are a lot of other possible influencing factors. Yet, time and again, this experiment proves itself. Read more about expectancy effects.
I put the word “believe” in quotes because it isn’t as simple as just believing in your students. Most teachers believe in their students. What really counts is not just belief but what you really think/feel/know in your gut about these students. It isn’t hope but faith, Meister Echart might have written (for it is the same distinction – hope really means we know one thing but hope for another by chance. Faith means we really believe and that belief affects the outcome).
I really believe that what Rosenthal and Jacobsen illuminated was something Goethe suggested decades ago – commitment. Teachers who are committed to the possibility and achievement of their students will do very well. True commitment is what counts. Are you a committed teacher? I’ll leave you with two of his quotes that elaborate on what I’ve talked about here.
If you enjoyed this post – you might enjoy: High Expectations