Pygmalion in the Classroom: impact of teacher's believe on students

Many are probably familiar with the Greek mythology figure Pygmalion, a sculptor who fall in love with the perfect statue he had carved. How does this related to education? This article with give you an answer.

What is Pygmalion effect?

Pygmalion effect refers to the phenomenon when one's high expectation finally come true. In the original story Pygmalion, he wished so hard for the statue to be alive that the Venus fulfilled his wish in answer to his prayer. In the educational setting, Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson's experiment shows that teacher's expectation of their students would influence their performance.

In the experiment, all students took a IQ test and the teachers were told some of these students are more talented and have the potential to succeed. After a year, all the students are retested on their IQ, and those “chosen” students indeed have better performance than their unchosen peers. The result was intriguing: the "chosen" students are randomly chosed one year ago, but they do improve more because of teachers higher expectation and subsqeunt extra support.

Why it matters?

The expereiment demonstrate how teacher's belief would change their behavior and finally impact students' learning outcome. If they believe a student is more potential than others, they will provide more resources to these chosen ones, which result in their better performances. So it is important for teachers to bear in mind that their attitude and expectation would impact their action and hugely influence their students.

The pitfall

The finding sounds inspiring at first sight: students can excel with a higher expectation from their teacher. Yet many people neglect the other side of the story. In the experiment, the unchosen 80% do not obtain the same amount of attention as the 20% lucky chosen ones, and it definitely went against the principle of equality. So no teacher should replicate the experiment without modification.

To utilize the findings, teachers should first realize their essential role in students' development, even their beliefs can influence their students. Never lose faith in any student, and never judge a student by his or her current state. Trust your students and alwaysmake positive predictions. These change in your mindset will influence your behaviour, and your behavior will continue to affect your student's self-perception and finally impact their behavior. In psychology, it is also known as the self-fulfilling prophecy.

More importantly, you should let your students learn about the self-fulfilling prophecy. Believing in themselves is their first step towards success. Click here to learn more about utilizing self-fulfilling prophecy as a student.

Final words

Pygmalion effect reveals the impact their expectations and emotions can have on students. A good start to utilize the effect would be stop complaining and appreciate every small success your students have achieved!