High Expectations

A quick post after reading this brilliant challenge to teachers from Ben Soloman at Edudemic: “The Pygmalion Effect: Communicating High Expectations”.

A colleague from another school brought high expectations to my attention a few years ago when I was suggesting that my students weren’t writing well enough to achieve higher marks – these sorts of comments characterised my early teaching as I was based in a ‘student blaming’ model that I believe  I have since broken out of. Her response was quite simple “expect more”. We discussed what this meant and she challenged me to articulate high expectations more regularly, do away with presenting student exemplars at lower levels and simply show professional level work that was accessible and challenge them to meet that standard. It was an eye-opening conversation.

This post re-challenges me to think about my high expectations, but adds something new, which compelled me to write this. The idea of making failure unacceptable. Personally, I would accept that I do not address failure well. Too often I take a soft approach which misses the opportunity for a learning shift to occur. Soloman offers this dialogue as an approach:

My job as your teacher was for you to learn this material, so let’s figure out how to make that happen. If you’re not learning the way that I teach, maybe I need to teach the way that you learn. Is this a cognition issue? Then let’s get you to tutoring. Is it a learning strategies issue? Then let’s talk about other ways to study, learn, and organize your thinking. Is this a motivation issue? Then let’s talk about the short- and long-term repercussions of failing.

I like how these are questions designed around solutions and they are questions that seek answers and to initiate a dialogue, not a one way discussion. This means finding time to meet them individually, but I think – done right – it could be extremely valuable.

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