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We Can't Just Raise Expectations


This is a good exposition of the social and interpersonal of academic expectations. But there is another, and equally important dimension that does not stem from status assumptions based on stereotypes. Imagine, for example, either a classroom where all the students are similar in terms of status, or an individual one-on-one instructional situation. In either of these cases, there is no comparative status getting in the way of forming opinions as to who will better meet the teacher's, the other students' or the systems performance expectations. But there can still be a problem with low expectations, leading to less-than-optimal learning or recognition of learning. It bears remembering that expectations are important for setting instructional goals mostly because there is ALWAYS the danger, either with groups of students or with individual students, of mis-perceiving not just the student's talents and gifts, but of what level of content and skills, and at what rate, they are prepared to engage in the learning process.

I want to problematize this a bit, and hit something that I think is important that you pass over. Quite often, expectations are well grounded in experience and facts. Oftentimes, teachers and students observed performance of others, and these observations are a major contributor to expecations. Sometimes, instead of personal observation, they recieve second-hand reports of one sort or another, to the same effect. In my view, one of the great challenges for teachers is to create environments in which students can *change* — including changing the perceptions that others have of them. Students grow and learn and develop, often at quite different rates. Students make jumps of different sorts on different time frames. Addressing poorly grounded expectations is certainly important. I totally agree with that. But I think a larger framing of this issue is really important. That is, regardless of whether expectations are well grounded or poorly grounded, fairly estabilished or unfairly established, establishing an…environment/expectation(sorry)/norm in which expectations are so loosely held that they can easily be reestbalished and improved upon is vital.


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