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Quote of the Month

"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor."

~Psalm 8: 3-5, The Holy Bible (NIV)


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Communicating challenging learning expectations to each student

Communicating challenging learning expectations to each student
By Rachael Davis
The rationale for communicating challenging learning expectations is very simple. In the book The First Days of School by Harry and Rosemary Wong, this rationale is proven “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In the pages of this work, Wong writes about an experiment on teachers’ expectations of their students. At a local school, before the school year began, students were pretested. Their teachers were told that their students would be exceptional, and they were expected to achieve great test scores.
At the end of the school year, the students were found to have achieved more than other students. This achievement was because the teachers held high expectations for their students and had taught to the best of their ability all year. At the end of the year, the teachers were told that their students were just average learners. Because the teachers expected more from the students, they did surprisingly well throughout the year. When given a challenge, it was shown these learners wanted to perform at their best, sometimes even achieving higher than expected results. The teachers gave the students many academic challenges, which they met with real enthusiasm and real results. For example, the teachers gave out vocabulary words, and told their students to write down the definitions of the words given. When this assignment was assessed, the results were found to be somewhat lacking for the level of learning at which the students and teachers presently found themselves. Instead, the teachers had the students write down the vocabulary words, the part of speech, and a sentence to make sure that the student had a grasp of what the word meant. This method was shown to be very effective.

Actively encouraging learners to meet challenging expectations will motivate learners to perform at their best. This concept applies to any type of program that involves children. For example, Elkhorn Valley Adventures has a high ropes program that is called “Challenge by Choice.” This program engages the students’ capacity to rise to new challenges. For example, if the student is deathly afraid of heights, the only requirement is that student must wear a harness when at the rock wall or at the high ropes course. Usually the students participate in something with which they feel comfortable. The facilitators and belayors are always asked this question, “What happens if I fall?” The belayors demonstrate what would happen if someone did fall. Nothing would happen; they would just sit there in the harness. Having this information, the students can then choose how they will challenge themselves. This empowers the students to be in control of their present circumstances, and they will most likely go above and beyond what they thought they could do. The same concept applies to teaching. If a teacher were to give a student an assignment with a challenge that the student can control, it is more likely the student will perform at a higher level of functionality. It would seem this approach does not fail. If a teacher has high expectations for a student, and the student does well, the educator will expect more and so will the learner.

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