The Important Research Most Teachers Have Forgotten

Teachers are often lied to.  Most of the time by students trying to sneak out of a missing homework assignment, but in some cases by research scientists.

Before you get mad and swear off academic literature as a professional development resource, know that the findings will not only help you as a teacher, but also increase the IQ of your students.

18 classroom teachers gave the TOGA IQ test to their students at the start of the school year.  The teachers were told that the test was used to discover "bloomers", or students primed that year to excel.

With the scores calculated, the researchers gave a list to each teacher of who, in their class, was ready to explode intellectually.

But they lied.

The researchers gave the teachers a list of randomly selected students.  In other words, the list provided to the teachers was not a list of students having intellectual potential, but a randomly generated one.

The same TOGA IQ test was given eight months later.

What did they find?

They found that the students who were randomly "identified" as bloomers at the start of the year significantly increased their IQ score.

Said differently: the students who were arbitrarily chosen to have academic potential significantly increased their IQ compared to their peers.

Interestingly enough, everything throughout the year was kept the same.

Or was it?

Picture what you would do with a list of gifted children in your class.  Would you act differently around them?  Would your behavior change knowing that they are smart?

We'd like to think not.  That would be unfair because every child deserves our attention.

But what if you changed unconsciously?  What if your behavior had modified without you knowing?

In fact, this is what the authors of the study hypothesized to make sense of the results.

They think that the expectation to excel was subconsciously translated to behavior which lead to the differences in IQ scores.

This is called the expectancy effect (subject or observer).  It states that what you expect to happen, will happen.

(This is potentially a HUGE problem for research scientists developing and testing hypotheses- it is VERY difficult to not form opinions and expectations prematurely)

How can we use this information to help our students?

First, give each student a blank slate at the start of each year.  Look past IEPs, 504s, and individual behavior plans as best you can.  Yes, there are certain connotations associated with IEP, 504 etc.

Do your best to convince yourself that all of the students in your class are primed to excel.

Second, insist that the prior teachers of students keep their comments to themselves.  How often do you hear:

"oh, you have Jen, she is super bright"


"oh you have Chris, good luck with that one!"

Internalizing comments such as those lead to unfair preconceived notions.

Third, expect yourself to have your best year ever.  If you expect to to happen, the expectancy effect says it is more likely to.

Thanks for reading.

No comments:

Post a Comment