- There are many variables that influence teachers' expectations of their students' academic performance. Some of these variables include:
- Previous performance of the student- many teachers base their expectation about a student performance on how well he performed previously. Although this method is the least biased it sometimes do not offer the right information regarding a student capability. This is because most of the approaches used in schools to test students' competencies usually do not give them a chance to show what they know thereby underestimating their skills
- Gender- some teachers base their expectation on students' academic performance on whether they are male or females. Many teachers' tend to have a belief that male students generally perform well in maths and other science related subjects than female students. This belief however is misplaced because; if female students are given the same level of attention and resources like the male students they do very well in these subjects. A good prove of this is the increase in the number of female doctors thus contradicting this belief
- Social class of a student- studies have found out that many teachers tend base a student performance based on his or her social class. As a result they have very low expectations on those students who come from low income families and high expectations on students from well up families. Some teachers even go to an extent of believing that students from poor background require psychological help or special education.
- Race- this is another variable that tend to influence greatly a teachers' expectations on a student academic performance. Some teachers hold a belief that students from certain ethnicity perform better than others from a different ethnicity. For example, many teachers have high expectations on Caucasian students while they have very low expectations on African American males.
The stability of teacher's expectations is fairly stable because, most of them tend to have these expectations from the beginning to end of each school year irrespective of the student undergoing so much change in terms of skills and knowledge gained. In most cases inaccurate expectations held by the teachers are not corrected because, they develop theories which can never prove them otherwise by structuring the learning environment only ways to reinforce these false theories.
The stability of these expectations is further enhanced by the biasness that the teachers have on particular students which blind them from the reality. This makes them only to see and interpret things with respect to their theories only instead of maintaining an open mind. The biasness also affect how these teachers interpret a student behavior, in most cases they tend to generalize something rather than focusing on specific aspects which made a student to behave in a particular way. Also, they tend to interpret a student behavior in a manner that is only consistent with the belief they hold and that is the reason why when a student who is considered to be bright answers a question wrongly, the teacher will attribute the wrong answer to other factors which are not related to the ability of the student. This is different when the wrong answer comes from a student who is considered to be less bright since his or her wrong answer is attributed to his or her limited ability.
Three strategies that can reduce the impact of negative teacher expectations on students include:
- Teachers should always maintain high standards for their students which ensure that they develop genuine self esteem and self confidence.
- Teachers should always judge a student's skill level based on reliable information and not from irrelevant information like gender, race and social class. In doing so the teachers will be able to handle each student based on his or her needs.
- Teachers should also never give up on a student. This means that teachers should be aware of the fact that different individuals have different learning capabilities and thus the rate at which each student grasps a concept is different. This will ensure that they continue to encourage those students who are slow learners instead of giving up on them.
Some of the behaviors that can signal that a student is trying to avoid the appearance of incompetence rather than working to master the material include: the students may portray a behavior of not trying, in doing so they believe that they will be avoiding failure which is usually interpreted as a sign of incompetence. However this is not the case because failure to try also has negative consequences like one may be punished by authority or failure to try may be taken as unambiguous evidence that they are incompetent. Another behavior that these students have is to discount the importance of academic success. To do this, they tend to shift their attention to develop competencies in non-academic areas like arts, sports and sometimes the alternative domain involves criminal behavior and gangs. This however is a defensive strategy they use to maintain a sense of worthiness. The third behavior that these students may have is the tendency to attend to their fellow classmates' accomplishments and striving to keep up with them. They do this by trying as much as possible to associate themselves with those students who are successful. In doing so, they can avoid some of the problems posed by the perception that our culture has relating to academic ability and self worth. The reason for this behavior is that a student's success is based on his or her relative performance which surely guarantees failure to some of the students.