The Rosenthal Experiment

Did you ever thought that you have ‘an in born ability’ to read someone’s face or predicting their behaviour in the future. It could be your new neighbor or a new student in the class. There is a high chance that your prediction really came true. So it reinforced your belief that you can actually read faces.

This was put on research by Dr. Robert Rosenthal, a German-born American psychologist who called this ‘self-fulfilling prophecies’. His finding lead to what is called ‘Pygmalion Effect‘. Please see the video below to understand the concept better.

Full script >> Pygmalion Effect – Google Docs

Pygmalion effect is a very effective motivational tool that teachers and parents can use to motivate students. This can be utilized in a positive way. You can read an article by Isabell Gaylord by clicking in this link.

The Rosenthal Experiment and the Pygmalion Effect are two studies that investigate the impact of teacher expectations on student performance. The main difference between the two studies is their focus and methodology.

The Rosenthal Experiment, conducted by Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson in 1968, involved telling teachers that certain students were expected to experience a significant intellectual growth spurt over the coming year. The researchers found that these students performed better academically compared to their peers, even though there was no actual difference in their abilities. This study focused specifically on the impact of teacher expectations on student performance.

On the other hand, the Pygmalion Effect, also known as the Rosenthal-Jacobson Effect, is a broader concept that encompasses the impact of expectations on performance across a variety of contexts, including education, sports, and the workplace. The study was conducted by Rosenthal and Jacobson, but it was based on the work of the Greek mythological figure Pygmalion. The Pygmalion Effect refers to the phenomenon where higher expectations lead to an increase in performance, and it is not limited to the teacher-student relationship.

The study took place in an elementary school, where Rosenthal and Jacobson selected a group of students and told their teachers that these students were “intellectual bloomers” – students with exceptional potential for academic achievement. In reality, the selected students were chosen at random and did not have any special abilities.

The results of the experiment were surprising. The students who were labeled as “intellectual bloomers” showed significant improvement in their academic performance, compared to the control group of students who were not labeled as such. This improvement was not due to any actual change in the students’ abilities, but rather to the teachers’ expectations of their performance.

The Rosenthal experiment highlights the power of teacher expectations in shaping student achievement. It shows that when teachers have high expectations of their students, those students are more likely to succeed. This has important implications for teachers, as it suggests that their beliefs and attitudes can have a significant impact on their students’ learning and development.

So what does this mean for educators? It means that our beliefs and expectations of our students can have a profound impact on their academic performance. Teachers should aim to have high expectations for all students, regardless of their background or perceived ability level. We should provide a supportive and nurturing classroom environment that encourages students to succeed.

However, it is important to note that having high expectations alone is not enough. Teachers must also provide appropriate support and guidance to help students reach their full potential. This includes providing challenging and engaging learning experiences, personalized instruction, and timely feedback.

Overall, the Rosenthal experiment is a fascinating and valuable study that sheds light on the role of teacher expectations in student performance. It serves as a reminder that teachers’ beliefs and attitudes can have a profound effect on their students, and that fostering positive expectations can be a powerful tool in promoting student success.

But we should also be cautious of its negative impact. As an educator or a parent, we should be very conscious about this in our daily life. Our behaviors towards a student or colleague or neighbor might be reflecting back and making our prophecies true.

Dr. Robert Rosenthal concluded

“When we expect certain behaviors of others, we are likely to act in ways that make the expected behavior more likely to occur.”

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