MSM-13-NMSA07-Silver & Gold

Why Try? I’m Going to Fail anyway! The Effects of Teacher Expectations on Student Achievement.

By Debbie Silver

This was a fascinating presentation. Debbie Silver is a very dynamic presenter who grabs the audience. She is one of those rare speakers from whom you get a natural “high”.
She focused on the little things that teachers can do that make a big difference for kids. She was one of the presenters that pointed out how much of an influence that teachers have on children. Many of the things that she pointed out are subconscious things – little things that we just don’t teach as educators. However, lots of these things have subtle effects which can lead to a “tipping point” to change student achievement.

Here’s just a little bit about her presentation:

Why kids don’t try:

  • Entitlement
  • Easier: It’s hard work, no control or choice over their lives.
  • Fear: Easier not to take a risk, a cover for the fear of failure.
  • 99% of students would rather be seen as a discipline problem rather than having a learning problem.
    • Many things we look for are not skills, but compliance.

We must change the mindset of the kids.
Our mindset:

  • Too often we are looking for not for knowledge but for convergence.
  • Every student deserves a reasonable level of success.

She discussed Albert Bandura, who popularized the term of Self-efficacy. This is the ability of
people to perceive what one is capable of doing. Teachers may “fire up” students temporarily, but that enthusiasm will be short lived if the test is completely beyond their ability. Rather, teachers can help by consistently stretching students a little bit at a time. People with high perceived self-efficacy will try more things, accomplish more and persist at a task longer.

Which ties in with Lev Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). The ZPD is defined as the student’s range of ability with or without assistance from the teacher (or more capable peer). One end of the range would be the student doing without any assistance at all. The other range is with very supportive assistance.

Thus, the teacher should:

  • know were student’s abilities are.
  • act as a scaffold, providing the minimum support necessary.
  • challenge the student to reach just beyond current ability level.
  • Understand that if instruction falls outside of the zone, either above or below, no growth will occur.
  • Be aware of the different roles students and teachers assume throughout the collaborative process.
    • teacher modeling behavior for the student
    • student imitating the teacher’s behavior
    • teacher fading out instruction
    • student practicing reciprocal teaching (scaffolding others) until the skill is master by all students in the classroom.

Think-Time vs Wait-Time

Recommended Book: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dweck, C.S. (2006)

Attribution Theory:

  • Task difficulty
  • Luck
  • Innate Ability or Talent
  • Effort


  • Task Difficulty
  • Luck
  • Innate Ability or Talent


  • Effort