Teacher expectations and perceptions of student attributes: Is there a relationship?

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Teacher expectations have been a fruitful area of psychological research for 40 years. Researchers have concentrated on expectations at the individual level (i.e. expectations for individual students), rather than at the class level. Studies of class level expectations have begun to identify specific teacher factors that make a difference for students.


This study aimed to compare how teachers with very high (or very low) expectations for all their students would rate their students' personal attributes. Teacher ratings of attributes in relation to achievement was also of interest.


Participants were six high expectation (HiEx) teachers and three low expectation (LoEx) teachers and their 220 students.


Participants were asked to rate their students on characteristics related to attitudes to schoolwork, relationships with others, and home support for school.


Contrasting patterns were found for HiEx and LoEx teachers. For HiEx teachers correlations between expectations and all student factors were significant and positive while for LoEx teachers the correlations that were significant were negative. Correlations between student achievement and all student factors were also positive and significant for HiEx teachers while for LoEx teachers only one positive correlation was found.


This study adds weight to the argument that class level expectations are important for student learning. Teacher moderators appear to relate to differing teacher beliefs and attributes (mediators) and hence may lead to variance in the instructional and socio-emotional climate of the classroom.

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