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The Pygmalion effect – How teachers’ expectations affect students’ achievement

The Pygmalion effect describes how a teacher’s higher expectations lead to the student’s higher performance. If a teacher believes that certain students are late bloomers, there’s a good chance that they will become exactly that.

Pygmalion effects in the classroom

This effect can be found in different settings, but here we’ll focus on the classroom and the discovery by two American psychologists, Rosenthal and Jacobson, who conducted a study to test if children could be brighter when expected to be by their teachers. In another words, whether changes in teacher expectations produce changes in student achievement [2].

In their study, at the beginning of the school year, all of the children in the study were given an intelligence test, which was disguised as a test that would predict intellectual “blooming”. About 20% of the children were chosen at random and the teachers of these children were told that their scores on that test indicated they would show surprising gains in intellectual competence during the next few months of school. The important thing to remember is that the only difference between those children was in the minds of their teachers.

At the end of the school year, all the children were re-tested with the same test. The children from whom the teachers had been led to expect greater intellectual gain showed a greater gain than did the other children.

girl thinking positively about studying

How to use these effects to achieve better performance among students?

Teachers, but also parents, influence whether children will have higher or lower achievement. So, now when we are aware of the power of our expectations, one question arises – how can we help our children?

  1. Look for the good and positive things in each child. Find something to like or appreciate about every child, even if it’s their independence and tenacity. The teacher’s behavior is important. However, there’s more to it than that – it’s about the way you think about the child.
  2. Be aware of your effect. Teachers should always bear in mind that their behavior can affect a student’s performance. Although it’s impossible to like all students equally, it is imperative that they are all treated equally.
  3. Reconsider your treatment. Think about how you treat students you find smart/charming and compare that treatment to the way you approach those you find uninteresting/annoying. Who do you criticize more? Who receives more attention?
  4. More positive treatment. Try to give more attention to students you neglected before. Also, reinforce them if you see them struggling or feeling unsure. This way they’ll be more motivated to raise their hands and ask questions. Consequently, they’ll work harder at your subject and do much better in it.

We, at Nobel Coaching and Tutoring, believe in your student! Achieving better performance demands hard work, but with our help it is much easier and faster. Therefore, there’s one more way to help – you can schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation with one of our Coaches HERE.

References:

[1] Babad, E. Y., Inbar, J., & Rosenthal, R. (1982). Pygmalion, Galatea, and the Golem: Investigations of biased and unbiased teachers. Journal of Educational Psychology,74(4), 459-474. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.74.4.459
[2] Rosenthal, R., & Jacobson, L. (1968). Pygmalion in the classroom. The urban review, 3(1), 16-20.

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