Education Issues – Teacher Signaling

Confession: as a teacher I have challenges with the different levels of students who cycle through my classroom. I am not unbiased, and yes, I take my students’ performance personally.

But this is as it has been and should be….

Some students are bright, but it’s not just the ability level of the student it is the teacher’s interaction with that perceived ability level of the student that influences a student’s outcome.

In a study that measured a teacher’s ability to influence student academic performance, researchers found that a teacher who perceives her class to be bright can help an average group out-perform the control group (over the period of one academic year) and a teacher who perceives the students to be less bright will have students who under-perform the control group.

Average students elicit average teaching, you simply aren’t as invested as you are in the progress of the super star talent. The super star talent progress you take personally, you take as a reflection of your ability to teach. The average student you don’t take quite as personally. You build and adapt your plan for the average student’s success, but the progress of the average student won’t keep you up at night.

A co-conspirator in the world teaching sums up his view of his students this way when asked, “What goes through the teacher mind when a student demonstrates a lack of progress?”

Avg student: he’s an idiot for wasting this opportunity
Super Star: he’s insulting me – a slap in the face

That is a harsher version of what many of us are uncomfortable describing. It isn’t polite to confront a lazy student, nor is it our job. But what surprises more than reactions to average students is the backlash against perceived bright students who shirk their duties. If you are a bright student, step-up your game and your teacher will help you exceed your abilities, shirk your duty and prepare for wrath.

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