As the New Year arrives we reflect on our lives and our expectations of the year to come. Teachers and students think about the challenges they face and resolve to do better. To raise their game and expect more.
I don’t recall ever hearing a teacher talk to me about aiming low and expecting little, but actions speak louder than words and sometimes what we say in school and what we do are in conflict.
What does it look like when we say we have ‘High expectations for our students’ but our policies and practices add the invisible subtext: ‘... but not for all of them!”?
Grouping children with other children we believe are of similarly limited ability, and giving them simplified materials and tasks so that they don’t encounter too much challenge and become discouraged.
Not everyone has had the same opportunities to develop the values and attitudes they need for success nor to learn the cognitive competences to tackle more challenging work. High expectations would expect, and believe, that they can rise to the challenge if we provide these opportunities both frequently and regularly. Low challenge plus low skill equals boredom.
Rewarding some children for staying on task all lesson and not shouting out and rewarding others very rarely because their work is always of the highest quality.
Children’s expectations of themselves are shaped, in part, by our expectations of them. High expectations recognise and reward the steps towards high performance and challenge children to move beyond simple compliance.
Choosing to study “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” with the top group and “Of Mice and Men” with the middle group.
Having high expectations would expect all our students to enjoy the greatest stories and the most beautiful language. We know some might need support to develop the skills to do this – but that’s our job!
Talking about “middle-ability boys” and thinking about how we might help staff to identify and support them.
High Performance Learning assumes that ability is not fixed and we have, therefore, to assume that potential is limitless. Having high expectations assumes that whatever ability we see now can be augmented by our teaching and students’ learning.
Eliding predictions and targets so that children, based on where they are now, spend several years under our care working towards a “target” that’s below the expected standards.
Children attend school for at least 11 years. High expectations assume that over that period, we will have a profound and measurable impact on the values, attitudes and attributes and cognitive performance characteristics that a child arrives with. If we don’t target success, and plan for it with each child, we are, in truth, expecting little of ourselves.
Teachers talk about high expectations of children is because we all know it makes a difference. Research demonstrates time and again that:
What we expect = what we do
What we do = what we get
(see this link to The Pygmalion Effect: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJymYT_AkIc).
When what we expect is to be disappointed, that affects what we do every day in how we plan and deliver education in school.
When we expect high performance, then we plan for it through our practice and our policies.
As a result, we get what we thought we’d get… and so do our students.