Are Student Expectations Important in a Course?

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Expectations provide a foundation for an effective learning environment. According to Cornell's Center for Teaching Innovation, they can also hold students accountable for their behavior, as expectations outlined in the syllabus can serve as a contract when needed.

Establishing expectations builds structure, influences student performance and achievement, and creates a positive learning space.

Why Set Expectations with Students?

One of the best ways to help students meet academic expectations is to set high expectations for behavior. Setting expectations allows professors to develop an equitable baseline for the start of the term. 

With clear and consistent classroom expectations, students know and understand what’s expected of them, building confidence. They can also take responsibility for their learning, spend more time on-task, and establish a stable and safe learning environment. 

Professors can also more easily recognize and motivate positive behaviors while building a positive classroom culture, which creates a positive school climate.

Positive expectations influencing positive performance are known as the Pygmalion effect. In a 2017 study, researchers falsely told professors that some of their students were potential high achievers and that they would bloom over the year.

However, those students were chosen randomly and were actually more likely to make more significant gains in their academic performance over the year. The researchers attributed this to their teachers' high expectations of these students, subsequently altering their behavior.

High expectations of every student and providing the necessary support to achieve that level are critical to success. “When teachers expected that certain children would show greater intellectual development, those children did show greater intellectual development,” researchers stated.

Strategies to Implement When Setting Course Expectations

When building the foundation of a positive classroom environment, it is vital to establish, monitor, and reinforce classroom expectations.

Designing strategies consistent with the University’s policies is the first step when implementing course expectations. Course expectations aligned with the university’s expectations promote solidarity in procedures, helping students become more successful learners and maintain productive communities. 

Next, professors can limit expectations to five or fewer. Although courses should put a demand on students, too many can be overwhelming and create a hostile learning environment. Additionally, getting input from students motivates them to meet expectations and makes them feel more in control. 

Remember, expectation is a two-way street. A professor stating their own expectations lets students know that they are also holding themselves accountable. 

Implementing a more holistic admissions process that allows you to evaluate each applicant’s personality traits, professional competencies, and motivational traits helps university admissions teams ensure that they are admitting and enrolling applicants who are most likely to succeed in the specific program or cohort. 

Student Select AI enables an objective, holistic assessment of each applicant across 17 key attributes, from analytical thinking and leadership skills to conscientiousness, grit, and enthusiasm. 

Check out another recent article for a closer look at how understanding personality traits can help universities admit “best-fit” students.

Student expectations allow professors to establish an equitable baseline for the start of the term and more easily motivate positive behaviors while building a positive classroom culture.


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