Communicating High Expectations to Students: Maximising Learning Success in the Secondary School Classroom
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The quality of secondary school education that a student receives can significantly shape that young person’s future. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of teacher expectations on student learning success; which is ultimately an important attribute and measure of a quality education. As teacher expectations are a variable reality for students, this research set out to examine how the communication of high expectations from the classroom teacher can contribute to maximising student learning success at secondary school. Using a qualitative approach, two methods of data collection were used: semi-structured interviews with six teacher participants; and two focus group interviews with six Year 13 students participating in each discussion. Three interconnected themes were identified from the data generated: effective communication, authentic and productive relationships, and engagement. This study highlighted that teachers know that the communication of high expectations is an important contributor to student learning success. Furthermore, students are experts in identifying teachers’ perceptions of student ability - they understand the significance of teachers communicating high expectations for their own learning success and the learning success of their peers. Professional learning and development for teachers that concentrates on the importance of learning relationships between a classroom teacher and their students supports the communication of high expectations by teachers and the learning success of students was highlighted as being beneficial on multiple levels within a school. In addition, this study concluded that the benefit of teachers who have high expectations for the learning success of their students is twofold: teachers enjoy stronger connections with their students; and students experience an increase learning success and positive impact on their personal well-being. Whilst the importance of effective and productive relationships between a classroom teacher and a student is not new to educational research, the themes and findings of this research may challenge a teacher’s personal values and assumptions and the impact of these in providing equity of opportunity in their classrooms. Further study that illuminates secondary students’ perceptions could be a promising direction for future research.