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Video transcript

Presenter intro: Peps McCrea

The goals that teachers set for their pupils have a huge impact on what they achieve. If we want our pupils to experience success at school and beyond, it’s crucial that teachers have high expectations, both for behaviour and academic success. But just setting high expectations alone isn’t enough. Teachers also need to show pupils how they can meet them.

Presenter main

Teachers can have a massive influence over their pupils. The expectations that teachers set for their pupils can shape the outcomes that they achieve both in school and beyond, and not just in terms of academic success. Teachers have the ability to affect and improve pupil wellbeing, motivation, and behaviour. In order to achieve the best for our pupils, we need to set high expectations, both of academic success and behaviour, and support our pupils to get there. This is true for all pupils, whatever their starting point.

High expectations for pupil behaviour can include a wide range of behaviours, such as being polite and respectful to each other, contributing to class discussions, working silently when asked, persevering during a challenging task. Some of these behaviours will be more obvious than others. Some pupils will arrive into your classroom being good at some and not others. But for every expectation that teachers set for their pupils, teachers need to show pupils how to achieve it.

In the first instance, manageable instructions, explicitly describing behavioural expectations and highlighting them through positive reinforcement helps pupils to meet high expectations. When pupils have done something that you have asked, such as placing their books in a neat pile, or answering in a full sentence once they have discussed an idea with a partner, acknowledging this positive behaviour can encourage others to do the same. When pupils exceed your expectations, such as being especially kind to a fellow pupil, or building on someone else’s idea in a nuanced way, teachers can praise their pupils.

Another approach that can help pupils to achieve high expectations is to draw their attention to the behaviours that they have demonstrated. For example, to encourage a pupil to share their thinking, even if it is wrong, a teacher might remind the class that they have been brave enough to do this in the past and felt proud of themselves when they did so. Pupils can get better at regulating their behaviour when we help them to know how to respond to different situations.

Using intentional and aspirational language, and encouraging effort, also helps to create a classroom culture where pupils become used to working hard and trying their best. Pupils need to experience success in the classroom to feel they’re capable of it. This means setting tasks that stretch pupils, and being explicit about the knowledge and skills that they need to acquire in order to carry out these tasks well. Once again, it’s about showing pupils how to be successful, not simply setting your expectations high and hoping for the best. Powerful motivating words need to be accompanied by crystal-clear actions.

Presenter exemplification framing

In the next example, you will see a model of how to establish high expectations during a class discussion. Try to spot the following:

  • Teaches and rigorously maintains clear behavioural expectations
  • Acknowledges and praises pupil effort

Exemplification: Ambition Institute coach

For the purposes of this model, I want you to imagine that I’m teaching a year seven English class "Romeo and Juliet." I’m about to ask a series of questions to help consolidate and develop pupil thinking. My expectation is that everyone should be willing to answer.

“In a moment, we’re going to be recalling some of the new vocabulary and ideas we learned about Romeo in the last lesson, and I’m going to be asking you to look for examples in the scene that we just read. Now, remember when I ask a question, I expect everybody to be thinking of the answer, because if you do that, it’s going to help this new vocabulary stick, and you’re going to be able to use it in your writing later on in the lesson. So what does the word ‘rash’ mean? This is one of the words we looked at last lesson so I want everyone to be thinking carefully. What does the word ‘rash’ mean? Oliver.

[Pupil says they don’t know]

 Okay. It’s okay if you can’t remember. I’m going to ask the question again, and Oliver, I want you to be listening carefully because I’m coming back to you, okay? What does the word ‘rash’ mean, Elwin?

[Pupil gives correct response]

Great, good definition. So Oliver, what does the word ‘rash’ mean?

[Pupil gives correct response]

Thank you, Oliver. Okay, so what might an example of rash behaviour look like?

[Pupil gives answer]

Great. So rash behaviour is doing something quickly without thinking through the consequences, which are often negative. Okay everybody, I want you to scan your texts and find an example of Romeo behaving rashly. Okay, Sarah.

[Pupil gives response]

A great example. Can you explain why that’s a strong example of Romeo behaving rashly?

[Pupil gives response]

That’s a brilliant justification. You clearly thought about the definition of the word rash because you’ve picked a strong quotation and you were able to justify it in your own words.”

In this example, there are a range of strategies that I’ve used to ensure that I maintain my high expectations of my class. I supported pupils to master challenging content. In this case, that meant acquiring a thorough understanding of a tier two word: rash. The support included reminding them of their prior knowledge, "we looked at this word last week", providing a clear definition, and asking the pupil to provide a concrete example. These small steps help pupils to access the more challenging part of the task: identifying an example of rash behaviour in the text.

I encouraged all pupils to participate by asking the question to the whole class and pausing to allow them to all think before calling on one pupil. By naming a pupil after I’ve asked the question, rather than before, I’m keeping my options open for longer. Pupils are more likely to think about the answer as they may be called on. This is a routine that I’ve embedded with the class, and so pupils know what to expect.

Finally, I helped pupils to experience success through their contributions. When Oliver didn’t know the answer to the question, I asked another pupil, and then went back to Oliver to give him the chance to correct his thinking. This provided a great opportunity to remind Oliver and others of their ability to make progress. Pupils benefit when we help them to attribute successes to their efforts rather than to any innate ability.

Presenter key ideas

In this video, we’ve explored why it’s important for teachers to have high expectations, and how they can help pupils to achieve them. Now read over the key ideas that we’ve covered. Which ideas do you think the example illustrated the best?

  • Teach and rigorously maintain clear behavioural expectations
  • Support pupils to master challenging content, which builds towards long-term goals
  • Acknowledge and praise pupil effort and emphasising progress being made

Presenter summary

You may well have seen some teachers who make setting high expectations look easy. Pupil behaviour is exemplary in their classrooms, and they appear to have some kind of magic touch. But none of this is really magic. Helping pupils to meet high expectations for behaviour as well as academic success occurs when teachers consistently show their pupils what to do. It’s about being explicit to pupils, and constantly reinforcing what we say.