The Pygmalion Effect

pygmalion effect

Whilst perusing twitter last night Dan Brinton shared this video, featuring Professor Robert Rosenthal talking about the Pygmalion Effect – described above:

The whole idea of teacher expectations shaping the intellectual performance of students is a very strong one – and fits in very nicely with the principles of ‘Growth Mindset’ and an ‘Ethic of Excellence’.  What interested me in this video though were the 4 key factors that teachers can implement in the classroom, to make the effect happen.  By observing how teachers acted with students they thought needed to be pushed and challenged, we can in fact focus in on how we should be working with all students, all of the time – in an attempt to raise our expectations of all.  A short summary of the 4 factors follows.

1. Climate

Create a warm classroom climate, in terms of what we say to students and non-verbal cues.  Be nice to them, show an interest in their academic performance and let them see that you like them and expect them to achieve highly.  This is not about being their mate – we’ve all seen the disaster of the ‘best mate teacher’!  It’s just about modelling a respectful, aspirational and warm approach.  By doing so, students will feel safe and secure and be more likely to want to take risks with their responses to questions etc.  We don’t mind getting it wrong, if we know we’re going to be supported to get it right.

2. Input

Relatively simple – think about what you’re going to teach them – what the specification says.  Then just step it up an extra level.  Go slightly beyond what they need to know.  This means what they need to know, is not the hardest thing you’ll do….and it can also introduce a greater degree of breadth.  For example, when teaching about the life cycle of stars, I like to show them the size of Arcturus and Antares compared to the Sun, to give them a sense of scale.

3. Response Opportunity

When questioning students, encourage them to develop their responses, by asking them further questions to deepen their thinking – use lots of what, how, why, where questions to do this.  Discourage one word answers and take the time to encourage lengthier responses – ‘can you explain what you mean by that?‘  Don’t be in a rush to get to a nearly right answer. Develop this further by encouraging other students to contribute to and develop the responses of their peers – ABC response is great for this – students listen to their peers and then have to either agree with it, build on it or challenge it.  I think this came from Doug Lemov originally.  The bottom line is to expect more from their responses and give them the time to do so.

4. Feedback

We know this is a winner – but focus more on the wrong answers. In fact celebrate and embrace wrongness!   Don’t accept substandard, nearly right answers – give students feedback so that they are able to clarify and develop their answers with a greater degree of accuracy and complexity.  Expect nothing less than an excellent answer and use feedback to help them get there – and then of course praise the struggle when they do get there.

pygmalion6So if expectations shape performance, the challenge for us as teachers is to ensure that the Pygmalion Effect runs through everything we do at school – then we’ll truly be on the way to developing a Growth Mindset school.

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6 Responses to The Pygmalion Effect

  1. talkingbusinesshuelva says:

    That’s for that! Rule of thumb for me is the usual “do onto others as…”, which seems to work just fine.

  2. Pingback: Assessment Without Levels – An Opportunity for Growth | Class Teaching

  3. Pingback: Beliefs, Fromage Frais & The Pygmalion Effect | Class Teaching

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