Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Evan. Evan Wonders, “Why do parents have expectations?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Evan!
Do you like to play sports? Whether it's spiking a volleyball, kicking a soccer ball, or throwing a football, playing team sports can help you stay healthy and build skills that make you a more well-rounded person.
If you do play sports, though, you may have experienced some negative emotions from time to time, especially during games. Have you ever felt pressure from the sidelines? Coaches, parents, and even friends can place unrealistic expectations upon you that make it hard to do your best.
Is it a bad thing for others to have high expectations of you? Not necessarily! Sometimes they're just expressing confidence in you. At other times, though, expectations can be so unrealistic that they have a negative effect because they're impossible to meet.
Can expectations really affect your performance, though? You bet they can! Psychologist and Harvard professor Robert Rosenthal first studied the phenomenon in 1964.
He performed an ingenious experiment at an elementary school near San Francisco. Teachers were told that a randomly-selected group of students were destined to succeed because they were poised to experience a dramatic growth in their IQ.
Rosenthal followed the children for two years and concluded that teachers' higher expectations of these students did indeed affect their performance. When teachers expected these kids to experience greater gains in IQ, that's exactly what happened with those kids.
The next logical question was obvious: why? Rosenthal found that the teachers' higher expectations affected their moment-to-moment interactions with these kids in countless ways. For example, he found teachers gave these kids more time to respond to questions, more specific feedback, more support, more opportunities, and more approval.
In a nutshell, Rosenthal found that the teachers behaved differently toward students for whom they had higher expectations. His results have been replicated in many other settings, such as the workplace, courtrooms, and medical settings. This phenomenon is sometimes called the expectancy effect.
So is the moral of the story that we should raise our expectations for everyone around us? Not necessarily! Instead, researchers believe these insights can help teachers and others to modify their behaviors to get the most out of others regardless of their true expectations.
For example, watch, listen to, and engage with students on their own terms. Spend time with them in settings other than just school. Seek to understand the way they learn best and experiment with different approaches to learning. Evaluating and adapting behaviors while giving student more attention can bring out the best even in kids for whom you don't have the highest expectations!