Rubie-Davies & Peterson (2011) expectations & beliefs

Rubie-Davies, C.M., & Peterson, E.R. (2010) Teacher expectations and beliefs: Influences on the socioemotional environment of the classroom. In C.M Rubie-Davies (Ed.), Educational psychology: Concepts, research and challenges (pp. 134-159). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

As a New Zealand educator, I struggle with high-stakes testing that sorts learners into levels, high schools, and career options in the Netherlands. On a bad day, the primarily conservative education system seems to support sorting more than learning.

Research shows that teachers’ beliefs, and expectations affect learners’ achievements and classroom affective environments. Teachers who hold high and low expectations of learners interact with learners in predictable ways. High-expectations learners receive more praise, longer wait-time, high-order questioning, challenging activities, and more opportunities for learning. Whereas, low-expectation learners receive more criticism, repetitive exercises and concrete experiences. Over time learners perform inline with teachers’ expectations. Interestingly, having expectations of groups of learners creates a more powerful self-fulfilling prophecy than having expectations of individual students. This makes students from minority groups, particularly vulnerable to teachers negative expectations. However, when low-expectation or disadvantage learners are challenged, they frequently exceed expectations. Ultimately, students learn more in contexts where they feel valued, respected, cared about, because this affects motivation, self-esteem, and learning outcomes. I agree that debates about teacher expectations include right of learners to equitable treatment in classroom environments.

Babad et al (1982) describe teachers as high-bias and low-bias. High-bias teachers rely heavily on others’ judgement and treat learners according to preconceived judgements. Not surprisingly, high-bias teachers’ non-verbal behaviors also have a negative effect on low-expectation learners. In contrast, low-bias teachers hold an entity view of intelligence, allow interactions with students to shape their ever changing ideas about learning. Weinstein’s (2002) research shows that teachers with high differentiating behaviors label students, create a competitive atmosphere, use negative put-downs,  provide teacher-centered learning, use extrinsic motivators, and blame low achievement on learners. In contrast, teachers with low differentiating behaviors hold incremental notions of intelligence, support each other, do not refer to ability, use a range of teaching approaches, provide frequent positive feedback, focus on intrinsic motivation, use humor,  ascribe success to effort and task difficulty, take responsibility for learners’ progress, and respect learners.

For me, teaching has at its core two simple ideas: first believe learners can learn and second help learners learn.

One thought on “Rubie-Davies & Peterson (2011) expectations & beliefs

  1. I am a firm believer in ‘High Expectations’ and in my previous job was often so frustrated with colleagues who would say, ‘don’t waste your time on him, he’s impossible to teach.’ Such statements were damning for the student concerned but also very telling about the teacher. First and foremost we must have high expectations of ourselves and of the teachers who we work with. We must lead by example. Every student should be enabled to reach their full potential by encouraging, caring and demanding teachers.

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