People: the more you expect, the more you get

I realize the title statement isn’t always the case. Sometimes the more you expect, the more you get disappointed or the more you expect, the more pressure you apply which could lead to a negative result.

But I am referring to the positive outcomes that result from people who have the fortune to have someone who believes in them and expects them to do better and eventually master a certain skill. Sir Ken Robinson mentions it in his TED talk when he says “there are conditions under which people thrive, and conditions under which they don’t”. Oftentimes we see students who drop out, as people who are giving up, instead of considering that for them it may be deciding to leave a system that has given up on them. I read an article on how Teacher’s Expectations Can Influence How Students Perform which led me to reevaluate my school years (primary to high school) and the role that my teachers’, classmates’, and my parents’ expectations of me played in my overall performance. I was at the top of my class and I do remember feeling a sense of responsibility to maintain the high level of achievement that was expected of me. In contrast, some of my friends who did not receive this kind of support and expectation from our teachers or their parents, felt very disengaged during classes and were not motivated to do the work assigned for after school either. Fast forward a few years to my move to Virginia to attend graduate school where I was perceived very differently based on my gender and ethnicity and confronted with the idea of whether that has an effect on my capabilities. I am still discovering how or if that kind of questioning affected or affects my performance. While revisiting all this, it also made me question what happens first: does the expectation lead a student to do well? or is a student who performs well early on then expected to continue on the same path? How strong is the impact of external factors such as other people’s perceptions on your capabilities?

In the study mentioned in the article above, they suggest that a change in teachers’ behaviors can also lead to a change in their expectations which in turn affects their students’ performance. This seems to emphasize what Sir Ken Robinson mentioned about the importance of increasing the support and professional development of teachers in the United States if we hope to decrease the drop-out numbers and increase a sense of satisfaction through education and learning. By implementing what Ellen J. Langer calls mindful learning, there seems to be a shift in the focus from the information at hand back to the individual–the person doing the learning as well as the one facilitating it. It all comes back to the people, but people are very diverse. Therefore, too much standardization can leave out great numbers of students to our collective disadvantage where we are all deprived of their individual talents.

Networked Learning – a new challenge for introverts?

I have read all the articles and have been a part of the dialogue around the importance of blogging and its impact on higher education. The more I read others’ thoughts and comments about it, the more I agree with all the positive outcomes that can from it. Yet as a shy, introverted, empathic person, I sometimes find it difficult to engage in public discourse even when it is done digitally. As an exercise in getting out of my comfort zone and facing my own fears, these are often times the same reasons I use to put myself in situations that force me to engage with others (whether it is by attending large social gatherings or by taking courses that require blogging and active participation). I do it also because I see the importance in learning how to control my emotions and be able to comfortably engage with others. I want to get better at this so I can incorporate it into my teaching and be able to pass on advice from experience to others who might relate to this.

I particularly enjoyed the post by Tim Hitchcock in which he emphasizes sticking to your own voice and staying true to your identity while blogging. I wonder how that would translate for students in different age groups and from diverse backgrounds, and how this increased connectedness and almost constant engagement affects their definition or awareness of their true identity.

In this digital age of social media and information overload, it is also imperative that we equip students with the critical thinking needed to adequately parse and filter information. I believe this will become the main task of educators, it will no longer be the unidirectional transfer of information since the information is ready available to everyone, but rather developing their students’ critical thinking skills by encouraging them to pose questions and engaging in an open dialogue. The article by Gardner Campbell discusses some of this where scholars in education have been arguing for a shift in teaching techniques for a long time with little or very slow response into actual implementation of new methods.