Do Teacher Expectations Matter?

By Nicholas Papageorge, Seth Gershenson
October 12, 2016

In this discussion paper, researchers from the Brookings Institute examine the causal impact of teacher expectations on student outcomes. The study looked at nationally representative data of 6,000 tenth grade students in 2002 and their educational attainment data as of 2012. This data shows that teacher expectations do have an impact on the level of education students obtain. The authors also conclude that teacher expectations differ by racial groups in a way that puts black students at a disadvantage, exacerbating racial achievement gaps. The study goes on to explore a deep question: Does this connection occur because teachers are simply accurate predictors of which students are most likely to go on to college or do teacher expectations act as a self-fulfilling prophecy in which students lose motivation and confidence to succeed? These authors conclude that negative teacher biases do impact students. Student motivation and self regulation are key factors in the success of student-centered learning. This research suggests that efforts to combat biases in teacher expectations, such as hiring more black teachers or working with teachers to raise expectations for black students, could increase black students’ confidence in their abilities and motivation to achieve, thus decreasing racial educational attainment gaps.

Teachers will find this article thought-provoking, and it could serve as a good discussion starter for a conversation with fellow staff as part of efforts to build school culture around student success. District and school leaders may also be interested in the implications of this research for teacher hiring practices.

Source Organization: The Brookings Institution

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