High or Low, Expectations Are Met
Do you remember a teacher that made a difference to what you thought was possible?
At Auckland University, Professor Christine Rubie-Davies has spent the last 20 years studying the power of teacher expectations and their impact on students.
A former primary school teacher, Rubie-Davies was on the track to become principal when she realised that the setting of expectations by teachers made a massive difference to learning outcomes. Now, having completed a Masters and PhD in education and psychology, she is an expert in an academic field that will have wide-ranging implications for teacher behavior both in New Zealand and internationally.
In 1998 Rubie-Davies took a Maori cultural group from a range of schools to Turkey. She became aware that once expectations were put in place in regards to behavior and goals, positive changes occurred in these students.
“Basically some teachers have high expectations for all kids and other teachers don’t.”
Her observation in 1998 was that teachers with high expectations for all students appeared to grow the self-belief of students and the group (as a whole) achieved stronger academic results. Conversely, those students that were taught by a teacher with low expectations did not achieve positive academic gains and their self-belief plummeted.
Marsden Fast-Start Research Proof
Determined to prove that her insight was correct, she successfully applied for a Marsden Fast-Start scholarship. Her research project involved 84 teachers across twelve schools being split into two groups.
One group was supported with guidance on positive interventions to increase expectations, the second group operated as a control.
Teachers were videoed, interviewed, and guided by four workshops while students completed mathematics and reading tests to assess improvements.
The result, at the end of the three-year project, supported Rubie-Davies’s initial observation.
Students that had exposure to teachers that had high expectations had a 28% learning gain in mathematics through the course of the year – effectively the benefit of an extra term of learning.
This finding supports the view that a growth mindset is possible amongst all children.
“In Western culture we have the view that ability is fixed. The myth exists that ‘if the brain’s not there, the brains not there’. However, with opportunities all kids can exceed and excel. If kids are taught to work and put in the effort they can achieve.”
What High Expectation Teachers Do to Help Their Students Improve
An engaging learning environment was fundamental.
High expectation teachers delivered lessons and activities that, unlike the low expectation teachers, were not mundane and routine. The children were challenged.
“Kids respond well to challenges – they don’t like being bored out of their brain. Adults want to be extended, kids are the same.”
High expectation teachers also took an active interest in each child. This was demonstrated through conversations and, perhaps equally as important, through body language and other non-verbal cues.
Teachers and students also discussed goal setting. Children knew what they were aiming for and had the autonomy to achieve it. This insight is particularly important for young footballers – to get to the top individuals have to practice in their own time and take charge of their own development.
Goal setting also helped set children up for success as they progressed through school levels.
“There is a danger of kids settling on being a big fish in a little pond. This can knock some kids at secondary school. Kids need to be told that it will be tougher. [Teachers] need to set expectations and the kid know that they will need to fight [to succeed].”
Continual Progression in Football Development
This insight also resonates in the world of youth football.
At every level the bar is raised.
Many New Zealand footballers think they have made it when they reach a certain level – be it age group national team football, an A-League appearance or senior national team appearance. Rather, at each progression the athlete has to rise to the challenge, set goals and move up another level. This requires mental toughness and desire that are formed by high teacher and parent expectations at a young age.
The Importance of the Parent
Parents are effectively the first teacher(s) that a child will have.
“Always encourage kids. Never put your kids down. When parents have strong belief in their kids, the kids do. Self belief, with motivation, leads to improvement.”
“Kids need to get messages that they can do, not can’t.”
But Rubie-Davies notes that parents can also go over the top. They need to find balance.
“Kids need to have choice. It’s not the parent saying ‘you are going to be…’”
Questions that can help a child frame what they want to focus on, even from a young age, include asking what is their favourite thing to do, or what are their dreams.
“When children are passionate it is amazing what they can achieve. Parents have an important role in encouraging them by asking how they can help and by being present.”
“Walk beside your kid. Don’t make them carry you. Lift them up.”
Outcomes for the 1998 Group
While the Marsden Fast-Start project bears out the importance of positive teacher expectations, the Maori cultural group that travelled in 1998 is testament to what belief in others can do.
At a reunion 20 of the 24 students had gone on to university. One had received a scholarship to the University of Lyon and two were completing their masters.
“This is not the story of low decile schools.”
The high expectations placed on this group made a massive difference to their future success, breaking the glass ceiling of what was stereotypically expected of them.
The Top Flight View
Top Flight Football Academy has high expectations of all of it athletes. A dynamic, challenging environment is vital to achieve ongoing positive learning outcomes for all our participants.
With support from our coaches, support staff and parents we expect our young footballers to set the standard in Auckland Football Federation junior grades for UniMount AFC in 2017 and beyond.
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