Does enhancing teacher expectation benefit pupils?

A recent study published in Learning and Individual Differences investigates the effects of an intervention in China that enhances teachers’ approaches to conveying high expectations to pupils.

The researchers randomly selected two schools in an urban area of a city in south China. Four grade 8 (Year 9) English teachers in each school were randomly chosen and evenly assigned to either the intervention or control group. While the control group teachers did not receive training, the intervention group teachers were provided with training workshops focusing on three strands of high-expectation behaviour, namely, giving pupils challenging tasks, providing affirmation or suggestions to pupils about their performance, and enhancing how teachers impart personal regard to pupils.

Teachers were asked to estimate the final exam score they believed each pupil would achieve for the study to categorise pupils into high-, middle- and low-expectation groups. Then, the researchers selected 30 pupils from each class, consisting of 10 each of high-, middle-, and low-expectation pupils, to participate in the study. Among the 240 pupils selected, 229 pupils provided complete data for analysis. Pupils’ self-concepts regarding English and the English test achievement of 113 pupils from the intervention group and 116 pupils from the control group were gathered at the end of Grade 7 (Year 8) and at the middle and the end of Grade 8 (Year 9).

Results showed that:

  • While the self-concept of pupils from the control group significantly declined from the end of grade 7 (Year 8) to the end of grade 8 (Year 9), the self-concept of mid- and low-expectation pupils from the intervention group significantly increased over the year.
  • English achievement increased for pupils in the intervention group, while no significant changes were found among pupils in the control group.
  • Low-expectation pupils exhibited the most gains in both self-concept and achievement.

The authors conclude that teachers giving challenging tasks, detailed feedback, and enhanced personal regard to pupils has a positive impact on improving pupils’ self-belief and academic achievement.

Source: Teacher expectation intervention: Is it effective for all students? (August 2019), Learning and Individual Differences, Volume 74