Human Behavior Experiments Teacher Expectations and Student Learning
About human behavior experiments on teacher and student relationships, the effect of expectations on learning.
TEACHER EXPECTATIONS AND STUDENT LEARNING
The 1st 2 experiments showed how people fit themselves and others into preconceived roles. In another experiment, Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson explored how innocent subjects are affected by another person's expectations of them, and how expectations change the interactions between any 2 people. They chose to conduct their research in an unnamed elementary school, in the San Francisco area. The entire student body was given an intelligence test. Teachers were told the test would reveal which children were about to "bloom," that is, go through a learning spurt. Children designated "late bloomers" were actually picked at random from all levels of intelligence. Teachers did not change their methods or materials for teaching these exceptional pupils, yet at the end of the year, when the test was administered again, 1st and 2nd graders who had been chosen at the time of the 1st test had gained twice the number of IQ points as other children.
In grades 3 to 6 the difference in IQ gain was much less dramatic. The experimenters theorize that the younger children were both more malleable and had less established reputations so that teachers were open to new ideas about their abilities. But how can one explain the great difference in IQ gain between the special group and their peers? The experimenters cite another experiment in which 2 identical groups of rats were designated as fast and slow learners and then given to laboratory assistants to be taught a maze. The rats that the assistants expected to be smarter did in fact perform better. These results at 1st seem incredible since the rats were truly identical in intelligence. But when the lab workers were questioned, it turned out that they had been more patient with the "fast" learners, had led them through more trials, and had treated them more kindly. The same phenomenon happened with the specially designated students. They performed better because they were given more attention. Teachers challenged them more because they expected more from them, and gave more positive reinforcement for each success. Behavior and achievement really can be affected by another's expectations.
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