Despite our attempts otherwise, we do occasionally judge books by their covers — but does this extend to the classroom? An article on NPR’s blog suggests that these internal snap judgements are common amongst teachers, and that the expectations a teacher has for certain students — whether high or low — can likely affect kids’ IQs.
A closer look reveals a 1964 study by Harvard professor and psychologist Robert Rosenthal. Rosenthal’s concept was to randomly choose students and inform the teacher that those specific children were “destined to succeed.”
How did those planted expectations of success affect a child’s IQ? In Rosenthal’s research, he discovered that “expectations affect teachers' moment-to-moment interactions with the children they teach in a thousand almost invisible ways.” So, a student with a perceived high IQ will be given more time to answer questions, more positive feedback, and more approval. He also found that teachers “consistently touch, nod, and smile at those kids more.”
To challenge these findings another study was conducted — this time with two groups of teachers. One group was provided with a simple instructional training course in pedagogy (the holistic science of education) and the other was given intense behavioral training including skills on setting expectations — and that training seemed to make all the difference.
The researcher, Robert Pianta, then went back to the teachers and found that the group given the intensive training had a bigger transformation in their pre-existing beliefs. As NPR noted, Pianta determined that “to change beliefs, the best thing to do is to change behaviors.”
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