It’s almost summer, but many teachers are already preparing for the next school year. Student proficiency targets increase every year. Teachers and students are working hard to keep up. Teachers are more aware than ever about student achievement data, and are brainstorming plans for how to help their students achieve higher. Your attitude, however, may be more important than any other variable in the equation. How do teacher beliefs affect student learning and what should teachers know before they go back to school this fall?
1. Intelligence is socialized.
Studies show that when teachers expect high performance from students, the students rise to the occasion. Reciprocally, when teachers have low expectations, they get lower results. This is true for academic and behavior outcomes. Researchers assert that intelligence is more than simply having the innate ability to retain and regurgitate information. They found that by teaching students “habits of mind”, such as reasoning and problem-solving skills, and expecting students to use them regularly, we can essentially teach intelligence. One example is teaching students comprehension and vocabulary strategies. The ultimate goal is for students to use these strategies independently while reading and on tests.
2. Students will work to meet your expectations if they know what they are.
Teachers today have the unique challenge of educating all students in their classrooms at high levels. High-stakes testing and threats of merit-based pay up the ante. Clearly communicating your goals to students better enables them to meet these high expectations. Students want to succeed and want to please their teachers and parents. Clear explanations of objections, explicit instruction, models of exemplary work, and advance knowledge of the grading criteria all help students meet the expected learning goals. Teachers must also conference with students to share outcomes and give corrective feedback.
3. Positive reinforcement goes a long way.
Students, too, feel the pressure of performing well in school. We are expecting a tremendous amount of concentration and effort. Not even in most kindergarten classes to students have the former luxuries of painting, dress up, and naptime. It’s work, work, work. Studies show that the earlier students learn to read, write, and problem-solve, the more successful they are in future grades. How do we then get children, especially small children, to work that hard? Praise. Teachers and parents have to motivate students by constantly recognizing their effort and accomplishments. This positive reinforcement can be verbal praise or tangible rewards.
More from this contributor:
Keeping Minds Sharp Over Summer Break
To Stop Bullying, Teach Tolerance
How I’m Spending My Summer Vacation