setting high academic expectations - Teach Like a Champion

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CHAPTER ONE

SETTING HIGH ACADEMIC EXPECTATIONS

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One consistent finding of academic research is that high expectations are the most reliable driver of high student achievement, even in students who do not have a history of successful achievement. Much of this research has been conducted to test, confirm, or debunk the famous “Pygmalion” study in which teachers were told that randomly selected groups of students had been proven through testing to be on the brink of great academic gains. Those groups of randomly selected students in fact outperformed other randomly selected groups whose teachers had not been led to expect great things, presumably because of those expectations. One of the problems with findings about high expectations is that they often include in the definition a wide array of actions, beliefs, and operational strategies. One study defined high expectations as including the decision to allocate and protect more time on task in academic subjects. That’s certainly good policy, but from a research standpoint, it’s hard to disaggregate the effect of more time on task from expectations. It’s also hard to turn that into specific action in the classroom. So what are the concrete actionable ways that teachers who get exceptional results demonstrate high expectations? This chapter looks at five, derived from

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Teach Like a Champion

these teachers, that raise expectations and differentiate great classrooms from the merely good ones.

TECHNIQUE 1 NO OPT OUT One consistency among champion teachers is their vigilance in maintaining the expectation that it’s not okay not to try. Everybody learns in a high-performing classroom, and expectations are high even for students who don’t yet have high expectations for themselves. So a method of eliminating the possibility of opting out—muttering, “I don’t know,” in response to a question or perhaps merely shrugging impassively in expectation that the teacher will soon leave you alone— quickly becomes a key component of the classroom culture. That’s where No Opt Out started, though as with so many of the other techniques in this book, it soon found additional applications as a useful tool for helping earnest, striving students who are trying hard but genuinely don’t know the answer. No Opt Out helps address both. At its core is the belief that a sequence beginning with a student unable (or unwilling) to answer a question should end with that student giving the right answer as often as possible, even if it is only to repeat the correct answer. Only then is the sequence complete.

KEY IDEA NO OPT OUT A sequence that begins with a student unable to answer a question should end with the student answering that question as often as possible.

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In its simplest form, No Opt Out might look like this. It’s the first day of school, and you’re reviewing multiplication facts with your fifth or perhaps sixth graders. You ask Charlie what 3 times 8 is. Glancing briefly and impassively at you, Charlie mutters, “I dunno,” under his breath, then sucks his teeth, and turns

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his head slowly to look out the window. It’s a critical moment. Students all too Reluctant students quickly commonly use this approach to push come to recognize that back on teachers when their unwilling‘‘I don’t know’’ is the Rosetta ness to try, a lack of knowledge, or stone of work avoidance. a combination of the two makes them unsure or resistant. And all too often it works. Reluctant students quickly come to recognize that “I don’t know” is the Rosetta stone of work


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