Foundations and Assessment of Education/Edition 1/Foundations Table of Contents/Chapter 10/10.6.2

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High Expectations for All Students

By Jessica Kurtz

Jkurt002 (talk) 03:42, 9 February 2009 (UTC)


Teachers inevitably have expectations of all students. Whether it is based on age, Socioeconomic status (SES) or past occurrences either personal experienced or read from their records, teachers are only human and therefore have certain expectations and impressions of students (Gazin). It is up to educators to overcome the natural judgment calls and expect that all students are capable of learning and all students deserve to receive that same high expectations, regardless of race, age, SES, or anything else. Students who are not expected to do well are less likely to achieve than those who are expected to do well. In order to improve academic achievement for all students, educators must begin to expect the same from each and every student.

Learning Targets[edit]

1. Understand the difference between Golem and Galatea effects and how they are applied to students

2. Understand the different prejudices students face and how those prejudices affect each student

3. Discover ways to ehance classroom climate and help students reach their fullest academic potential

Self-fulfilling Prophecy[edit]

The self-fulfilling prophecy is the underlying factor in student achievement. Basically, what this describes is how teachers help or hinder the outcomes of student achievement. Prejudices that are held by teachers about students essentially lead to their own fulfillment. Self-fulfilling prophecies change student performance in one way or another. By sustaining a particular belief, the student's performance will not change at all. There are two major effects involved in the self-fulfilling prophecy—the Golem effect and the Galatea effect. These two effects describe how prejudices effect student performance (Rubie-Davies, et al.).

Golem Effects[edit]

The Golem effect is what occurs when negative beliefs are held about a student. These beliefs lead to undesirable and negative consequences in regards to the student's performance in school. Low teacher expectations lead to low student achievement (Rubie-Davies, et al.). This means that teachers that expect students to perform poorly due to behavioral observations, school record indications, SES, or any other prejudice will essentially lead that student to perform poorly. The student will not try to do well in class because the teacher doesn't expect him to. Research by Alvidrez and Weinstein show that these negative effects have a lasting impression on children. Predictions about student cognitive ability have a predictive relationship with school achievement as long as 14 years later. Teacher judgements are strongest among students that are given negative perceptions about cognitive ability (Alvidrez and Weinstein). Students that are viewed as having lower cognitive ability by their teachers tend to perform at lower levels than those who are not viewed this way.

Galatea Effects[edit]

Galatea Effects are just the opposite. When teachers expect great things from students, those students will produce great things. This effect creates desirable and positive effects from the student because the teacher approached that student with a positive attitude and high expectations (Rubie-Davies, et al.). Students that are believed to be smart, polite, come from a well-to-do family, or any other prejudice that enhances their first impressions, will perform at higher levels than those who are not believed to be in these categories because the teacher expects them to do so. When teachers have positive predispositions about students they transfer positive energy to that student, causing them to try hard and to perform well because that is what is expected of them. Studies have shown that students that are viewed as being more tidy, independent and intelligent are given higher expectations. Teacher judgements regarding student cognitive ability are generally consistent with test performance (Alvidrez and Weinstein). This research gives way to much more insight of how positive perceptions about students help these students achieve higher marks in school.

One good teacher in a lifetime may sometimes change a delinquent into a solid citizen. --Philip Wylie


As human beings, educators naturally have first impressions, judgments, and prejudices about students in their classrooms. These natural thoughts are what lead to the self-fulfilling prophecies. There are many different ways to judge students. Many are unconscious acts that teachers do not even realize have occurred. By learning about and understanding the ways in which expectations are being placed on students, educators can overcome these prejudices and help foster high achievements from all students.


Ethnicity has an interesting relationship with student expectations. More so than socioeconomic status, ethnicity has been found to hold strong ties in relation to what teachers expect from students. Although a study done by Entwisle and Alexander showed that first-year African-American students came into school with higher standardized test results than white students, by the end of the school year, their grades were much lower (Rubie-Davies, et al.). This is a prime example of how teacher expectations effect student achievement. Even though the African-American students were found to have higher scores when entering school, the lack of positive influence lead to lower grades. Another study performed by Wigfield, Galper, Denton, and Seefeldt also resulted in white students receiving higher marks in school than minority students. The academic achievement of white students was much higher than that of minority students. Teachers also reported that the ability of minority students to make friends and do well working with them was much lower than that of white students (Rubie-Davies, et al.).

These two studies show the effects that biased opinions based on ethnicity can have on children. Although the African-American students did well on their test in the beginning of the year, those same tests resulted in lower scores due to the lack of high teacher expectations. The white students who did receive positive expectations throughout the school year showed positive interaction with their learning.

Socioeconomic Status[edit]

Socioeconomic status may also play a role. Middle to upper class students are perceived to perform higher in the classroom than lower class students. Research shows that high-opinion teachers teaching in lower-class schools yielded higher achieving students than did low-opinion teachers (Fleming and Anttonen). Another study also shows that SES plays a significant role in student achievement. When testing the correlation between teacher judgment and the ability of 4 year olds, those children from high SES homes were rated more positively and those from lower SES homes were rated more negatively (Alvidrez and Weinstein).

Many Other Reasons[edit]

There are many reasons teachers form opinions about students. Maybe a student is expected to do well because their older sibling did well. It is likely that biases are formed based on what is noted in the child's permanent record or what was observed the first day of class (Arganbright). Although it has not been found to have a direct relation to academic achievement, gender may play a role (Alvidrez and Weinstein). It is not uncommon to hear biases that boys are better at some things and girls are better at others. The self-fulfilling prophecy provides that these beliefs essential lead to those consequences. Research shows that in some instances, teachers give higher grades to students they believe can perform better than others, and lower grades to those who are perceived to do more poorly. Those believed to perform better are believed to do so because they are viewed as being more independent, tidy, clean, and neat (Alvidrez and Weinstein). There are an infinite number of reasons a child is perceived as likely to do well or not so well. No matter the situation, educators have the responsibility of overcoming these initial judgments and helping each child reach their highest potential.

How Can Educators Beat Prejudices and the Golem Effect?[edit]

"Effective schools have a common belief that all students can learn..." (Arganbright)

First impressions have a lasting effect. With that said, it is also important that second, third, and fourth impressions do not get left unnoticed. Despite what educators may initially feel about a student, it is their responsibility to ensure the child the best possible education. That means helping them reach their fullest potential regardless of any prejudices that may be in mind. Brophy and Good conducted a study in 1987 which showed that lower SES students tended to receive less or insincere feedback and did not get called upon in class compared to higher SES students (Gazin). Labeling or grouping students may also cause lower academic achievement.

There are many ways to beat the Golem effect and achieve the Galatea effect. This should be a main goal of all educators because it is in direct relation to high student achievement.

    -Make an effort to call on a variety of students.
    -Provide less criticism and more positive feedback to students.
    -Don't allow first impressions to make a lasting effect (i.e. "Jessica never does her homework.  She is a troublemaker.")
    -Get to know every individual student.  This will make them feel special and will enhance the classroom climate.
    -Another way to enhance the classroom climate is to smile and be friendly.
    -Expect the class to work hard.  There are no shortcuts.  Expecting great things of students will yield great results.


Gazin also provides more great tips for teachers:

Heighten Your Expectations: 5 Tips for Teachers

   1. Don't group students by ability, but divide the class into groups with complementary talents.
   2. Clarify expectations throughout the year by asking each student to evaluate how well he or she is meeting them.
   3. Give students specific and appropriate praise when they achieve a goal. For example, "Emily, I am so impressed by how you provided so many details in your paragraph."
   4. Share stories from your own life in order to inspire the kids. For example, "I almost failed Algebra until..."
   5. Keep in mind personal details about your students, such as their favorite books.


Many students fall victim to the self-fulfilling prophecy but many do not. There are an infinite number of ways and reasons this occurs, for better or for worse. Some students may contribute to the self-fulfilling prophecy by allowing teachers' negative predespositions to hinder their academic achievement. Others will benefit from the predespostions because teachers may expect them to do well, therefore they do. Educators should strive to eliminate the negative and reinforce the positive. At the same time, teachers should also eliminate giving positive assessments of students based on prejudice perceptions, such as SES, independence, or cleanliness. Every child is an individual with their own strengths and weaknesses. Good educators will determine these strengths and weaknesses and work through them, providing children with the best possible education for that individual. Not everyone can achieve the same goals. The purpose of teaching is to help students reach their own highest potential so they may become successful in whatever their future may hold.

Review Questions[edit]

1. Johnny is a first grade student living in a single parent home with low income. His teacher believes that he is a troublemaker and gives him low grades on his report card. This is an example of:

      A. Self-fulfilling Prophecy
      B. Galatea Effect
      C. Golem Effect
      D. All of the above

2. All of the following are examples of good ways to overcome the Golem Effect except:

      A. Get to know every individual student's name and personal preferences.
      B. Decide what kind of student you think they are on the first day of class.
      C. Change the classroom climate by telling stories, giving feedback, and smiling.
      D. Set high classroom expectations from day one.

3. Students that achieve high scores because their teacher had high expectations of them is called:

     A. Galatea Effect
     B. Pygmalion Effect
     C. Golem Effect
     D. self-fulfilling prophecy

4.All of these are prejudices discussed in this article except:

     A. Ethnicity
     B. SES
     C. permanent records
     D. grade level


1. C

2. B

3. A

4. D


Alvidrez, J. and Weinstein, R. (1999). Early Teacher Perceptions and Later Student Academic Achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 91(4), 731-746. Retrieved February 8, 2009 from

Arganbright, J. (1983, September). Teacher Expectations—A Critical Factor for Student Achievement. NASSP Bulletin, 67, 93-95. Retrieved February 5, 2009, from Sage Journals Online.

Fleming E.S., Anttonen, R.G. Teacher Expectancy as Related to the Academic and Personal Growth of Primary-Age Children. (1971, December). Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, Retrieved February 6, 2009, doi:10.1111/1540-5834.ep11784892

Gazin, A. (2004, August). What DO YOU Expect?. Instructor, 114(1), 18-22. Retrieved February 6, 2009, from MasterFILE Premier database.

Rubie-Davies, C., Hattie, J., & Hamilton, R. (2006, September 1). Expecting the Best for Students: Teacher Expectations and Academic Outcomes. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 76(3), 429-444. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EJ750346) Retrieved February 6, 2009, from ERIC database.

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