by: Carol Hurney
Earlier this week a story on NPR reflected on studies performed in 1964 by Robert Rosenthal exploring how teacher expectations of student ability influenced how they interacted and worked with students. Briefly, Rosenthal demonstrated that teachers provide more feedback, approval, and time to answer questions to students they were told were on the “verge of an intensive intellectual bloom.” Yes, these teachers changed their behaviors based on expected learning outcomes – not demonstrated performance – but expectations of performance. Rosenthal also documented that the teachers made small behavioral changes by spending more time smiling, touching, and sending approving nods to the students they were told had higher intellectual potential.
The part of the story that really intrigued me was the follow up conversation about the work currently being done by Robert Pianta, faculty and dean at the UVa Curry School of Education. Pianta and his group examined the factors that influence the ability of teachers to change their expectations of students. Basically, Pianta says that changing teacher expectations of students is difficult, but not impossible. The trick, he explains, is to train teachers to exhibit new behaviors rather than trying to get them to change their thoughts and expectations. Brilliant! How simple, yet profound. Humans are creatures of habit, we sit in the same seats in meetings or classrooms, we order the same foods at our favorite restaurants, and we relax happily into our daily schedules as if we are babies at a daycare center. But we believe that we are flexible, daring, and spontaneous.
So … changing my beliefs and expectations about the amount of time, research, and length of a scholarly blog may not be as easy is just getting me to change my behaviors. Less is more. And in this case, articulating my thoughts into sentences helps support my journey as a scholar, the scholarly work of the CFI, and most importantly it starts a dialogue with the JMU academic community that I trust will enhance the academic culture on our campus.