By Ken To, Centre for University and School Partnership, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Regardless of students’ actual achievement, teachers’ expectations of their class can make a difference because these may affect how they treat the class. A recently published article in Social Psychology of Education examined how teaching practices and classroom interactions differ between high- and low-expectation junior high school teachers in China.
A teacher expectation survey was first completed by 50 junior high school teachers to classify them with respect to their expectations of their class. Teachers who had a high level of expectation relative to the actual achievement were classified as high-expectation teachers. Finally, the study randomly selected and approached 10 teachers, eight of whom agreed to participate in the class observation study. Thirty-two lessons by these teachers were observed and coded using a structured observation protocol that noted the occurrence of teacher questioning, feedback, and classroom management every two minutes. The teaching practices and interaction patterns of high- and low-expectation teachers were compared.
The results showed that in some aspects, such as the amount of questioning, giving praise, and criticism, there were no significant differences between high- and low-expectation teachers. However, high-expectation teachers did stand out in the following features:
- High-expectation teachers referred to students’ prior knowledge and learning experiences more frequently, and gave more orientation or focus statements, telling students about the learning activities that would take place.
- High-expectation teachers provided more feedback to the whole class.
- When students answered correctly, high-expectation teachers were more likely to question further or provide explanations.
- When students answered incorrectly, high-expectation teachers were more likely to encourage the students to try again.
The authors suggested that the result could help teachers understand how their expectations get communicated to students. They recommended that teachers form high and appropriate expectations for all students, with the aid of effective teaching strategies and a warm learning environment, to support all students to fulfill their potential.