Low Expectations: Feedback Loop

Well, there was a twitter exchange today between @IcingOnTheCake, and @oldandrew and @samfr, following this blog from @IcingOnTheCake, and something became clear to me (I’ll come back to that later).

It appears to be certain that children from poorer backgrounds have a strong tendency to do worse in school than those around them who are from richer backgrounds. There are some nuances here around ‘poorer’ and ‘richer’, and not everyone does worse etc. However, the overall trend is clear. To be honest, when I first heard about this I was surprised (I think it was from @headguruteacher that I first saw the evidence), having come from a FSM background and done very well in education….I had assumed that anyone could do well regardless of background. But this was an example of personal anecdote getting in the way of the evidence. @IcingOnTheCake’s blog points out that Elites in our Society have a significant advantage when it comes to education, and that the current mantra of ‘low expectations’ might be an attempt to hide that advantage and push ‘the blame’ back onto the disadvantaged group.

So, what did I realise? In this case, I suspect that there is a feedback loop in play. For whatever reasons (and there has been much talk and analysis about it recently), children from poorer backgrounds tend to have worse educational outcomes than children from wealthier backgrounds. This then leads to an expectation that the outcomes will be worse. These expectations probably start in schools, then spread to Government, Society and the children themselves. Once the children believe it, then the effects of low expectations are a reality….and we have a feedback loop….everyone believes it’s true and also believes that it is inevitable: children from poorer backgrounds will have worse educational outcomes…it’s the law.

This means that the truth is multi-faceted. There are Elites. There is an expectation of low achievement, but this is also a ‘myth’ in that it isn’t inevitable. The loop needs to be broken. My belief is that it can be broken, and that teachers are the professionals to do it. I’m not sure how, though?


4 thoughts on “Low Expectations: Feedback Loop

  1. michaelslav

    Isn’t it a question of scale? Surely this is where systems and processes become crucial – not necessarily at the level of the classroom, but at the level of the school?

    A teacher, teaching exceptionally well, reverses the expectations for their class. This provides anecdotal evidence for the possibility of breaking the loop.
    A school, transforming the “expected” outcomes for their pupils, provides evidence that can be replicated in other institutions (e.g. King Solomon Academy, Mossbourne Academy, Park View Academy etc. etc.).

    Once you have enough examples of institutions, that with the best possible systems are able to sustain this transformation, you have evidence to point to which defies commonly held low expectations.

    1. chemistrypoet Post author

      Thank you for your comments. I agree that significant, myth busting change must happen at the system scale. I also agree that individual teachers can make a significant difference in their own classes (effects that can last beyond the time they actually teach the students), depending on the environment of the school. Are we optimistic or pessimistic about real change? I am optimistic, partly because there are many who want to bring about change…….but until there is a clearly effective package of implementable measures many will remain skeptical. Last night on twitter @miss_mcinerney indicated that @lkmco would soon be co-publishing something on this……


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