Your students will live up to your expectations whether you set them high or low. So how are you motivating students to reach their full potential? As a student, I would perform better academically for teachers who pushed me and expected more from me. Yes, they got on my last nerve, but in hindsight, they had a greater impact on me than those who seemed to be satisfied with my bare minimum performance. Because these teachers didn’t push, I was satisfied with just getting by, and that is exactly what I did in some classes.
There is one phrase that I have heard repeatedly by teachers about their instructional practices that infuriates me. “I can’t do this (lesson/activity) with these students.” Usually, because they feel the students can’t achieve and won’t be able to keep up. In truth, the student may not be able to reach mastery, but we can’t provide assignments that are not challenging them enough. Have you been guilty of watering down the content? Do you consider this helping your students? If so, it is not.
It is necessary to meet students where they are and push them as they progress to where they need to be, but you can’t dumb down the curriculum. On the other hand, how do you set and maintain high expectations for high achievers? Do you give them more work to do, or are activities purposefully assigned that will help progress their learning to the next level?
Dr. Robert Marzano, researcher, and trainer found that when we set high expectations of students, we act differently. We call on them more often, wait longer for their answers, and give them more opportunities to succeed. Teachers who set high expectations for their students have more of a positive attitude towards learners which results in effective teaching practices.
Expectations are not simply standardized test scores. It has been defined as any effort to set the same high educational standards for all students in a class, school, or education system.
So how do you make sure you are setting high expectations for all learners? Simply, by raising the bar! Teachers must support diverse learners in a rigorous way which means intentional planning. “Rigor,” refers to that fine line between challenging and frustrating a student. Students are challenged to perform, think, and grow. In rigor lessons, students are building their level of understanding to achieve at higher levels. Review the Norman Webb’s (1997, 1999) Depth of Knowledge (DOK):
How do Common Core standards encourage rigor in your classroom? What do you consider rigorous for students?
Maintain the rigor in your classroom high by using this Matrix of DOK Question Stems. Limit asking lower level questions such as recall, or DOK -1 questions, but encourage strategic and extending thinking which are high order questioning. Are students expected to acquire knowledge (DOK-1)? Apply knowledge (DOK-2)? Analyze knowledge (DOK-3)? Augment knowledge (DOK-4)?
Provide scaffolding (chunking, modeling, prompting through questions, graphic organizers) to support students as they progress. Ask yourself, “ How can I target my student’s needs?” Students may have the ability to perform but may need direction because of task complexity.
All in all, set high expectations and don’t compromise the rigor of instruction. Kids may not be reaching their full potential because they aren’t pushed to do so. Let students know you care and don’t be satisfied with mediocre. Instructional rigor is an essential aspect of effective instruction. Our practices make an impact on our student expectations.
I hope these few words find you well.