21 May, 2016
Pygmalion Effect is when people do better when more is expected of them.
It has been demonstrated in study after study, and the results can sometimes be quite significant. In one research project, for instance, teacher expectations of a preschooler’s ability were a strong predictor of the child’s high school GPA.
The Significance of the Pygmalion Effect
- High school students whose teachers have higher expectations about their future success are far more likely to graduate from college.All else equal, 10th grade students who had teachers with higher expectations were more than three times more likely to graduate from college than students who had teachers with lower expectations. In other words, the outlooks of teachers showed a very strong predictive relationship with college graduation rates. It cannot be said for sure that teacher expectations boosted college graduation rates. It is also possible that teachers with lower expectations were more likely to teach traditionally disadvantaged students who are less likely to do well in colleges. It is also probable that teachers might simply be very good at figuring out who will graduate from college, regardless of the students they teach.
- Secondary teachers have lower expectations for students of color and students from disadvantaged backgrounds.Secondary teachers predicted that high-poverty students were 53 percent less likely to earn a college diploma than their wealthier peers. They also believed that African American students were 47 percent less likely to graduate from college than their white peers. Finally, they believed that Hispanic students were 42 percent less likely to earn a college diploma than their white peers. There is no doubt a significant methodological issue here, and teacher expectations of disadvantaged students might simply show those students’ lower levels of academic achievement. Put more simply, educators’ expectations might simply be a mirror of the larger problems of the nation’s education system.
- College-preparation programs and other factors that support higher expectations are significant analysts of college graduation rates.High school students who enroll in college-preparation programs are more likely to graduate from college—all else equal—as are students who indicate that they work hard in high school. In short, students who have more difficult academic opportunities and experiences—including opportunities to practice and gain knowledge—are more likely to succeed academically.
Expectations also often have long-term effects. Teachers themselves say that high expectations are important for student achievement.
Teacher Expectations are More Predictive than Other Factors
Notably, even after accounting for other factors, such as race, academic effort and motivations, high school course taking patterns and parents’ expectations, teachers’ expectations and students’ college-going outcomes had a significant relationship, and teacher expectations were extremely predictive of student college completion rates.
While it is clear that expectations matter, teachers have far lower expectations for students who might need high expectations and support the most. For instance, some secondary teachers believe that students of color and students from high-poverty backgrounds are far less likely to complete college.