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An exploration of the effect of mode of communication of teacher expectations on pupil wellbeing and educational outcomes

Faculty of Social Sciences

About the Project

There has been an interest in the impact of teacher expectations since publication of results from a classroom experiment from the 1960s (Rosenthal, 1968). The ability of teachers to positively impact pupils’ educational outcomes became known as the Pygmalion effect. Recent reviews into teacher expectations have identified a possible pathway from teacher expectations to pupil educational outcomes, but the mechanisms are not fully understood (Shengnan Wang, 2018). It is believed that teacher expectations lead to teacher behaviours, which are noted and understood by pupils, which affects their opinions about self and impacts their outcomes, but it is recognised that these stages can be moderated by other factors such as parental expectations. The supervisor of this doctoral study has recently carried out research which suggests that S3 pupils in schools serving predominantly low SES families were largely unaware of teacher expectations, but that the teacher behaviour directly influenced pupil outcomes due to use of ability groups in academic subjects and elite groups designed to promote a higher education trajectory. This doctoral study will explore this further and in more depth in an attempt to understand the mechanisms by which teachers’ behaviours and beliefs influence outcomes. The balance between direct communication of teacher beliefs (through relationships and interactions) and direct influence (through early elite grouping) will be a focus of the project.
The research methods will include teacher interviews and questionnaires and creative child interview methodologies (e.g.


Rosenthal, R. &. (1968). Pygmalion in the classroom. The Urban Review, 3(1), 16-20.
Shengnan Wang, C. M.-D. (2018). A systematic review of the teacher expectation literature over the past 30 years. Educational Research and Evaluation, 24(3-5), 124-179.

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