Promoting self efficacy: High expectations

Author Les Brown once said, “No one rises to low expectations.” This is no secret in the world of education. Most practitioners discover early in their careers that learners rise to high expectations. This is due in part to the fact that holding high expectations for students communicates confidence in their abilities to succeed. Telling students, “You can meet these expectations through hard work,” promotes self-efficacy in the task at hand.

However, maintaining high expectations can be challenging; a number of obstacles stand in the way, including the low confidence many learners bring with them from prior school experiences. The challenge of helping children and adult learners understand their current abilities in order to set expectations adds another layer of complexity. Anyone can see how it would be easy to lower expectations. Still, to truly benefit learners of all ages, it is necessary to rise above these challenges. Practitioners must hold high expectations for their students and help those same students learn to hold high expectations for themselves.

NCFL has found that successful family learning programs are marked by high expectations for both staff and families. This makes sense — practitioners benefit from high expectations in the same ways learners do. When educators know others expect the best from them, they perform to their highest potential. In successful family literacy classrooms, this transfers to families.

In multigenerational learning, maintaining high expectations is essential to promoting self-efficacy in both parents and children. How can we communicate high expectations for families?

  • Use class time wisely. Plan meaningful instruction that fills the entire time slot. When class time is wasted, families may perceive that their learning is not worth investing in.
  • Provide models. Demonstrate your expectations through examples. When families understand what they’re striving for, they are more likely to succeed.
  • Focus on growth. Encourage families to celebrate each small victory along the way. Not all learners move at the same pace, and acknowledging each gain lessens the fear of failure.
  • Plan instruction that is developmentally appropriate. Instruction that is too easy tells learners you do not believe they can handle the next level. Instruction that is too difficult kills motivation to even try. Plan to target goals that are within reach but encourage growth.

Practitioners who hold high expectations for families establish a cycle of increased self-efficacy and success. What are your strategies for maintaining high expectations for staff and families? Do you have a success story to share? We’d love to hear from you!