Two Harvard University researchers, Rosenthal and Jacobsen gave an intelligence test to all of the students at an elementary school at the beginning of the year. They then randomly chose 20% of the students and assigned them to a select group of teachers. The teachers were told that the students they were assigned for the year showed “unusual potential for intellectual growth” and they could expect to see the children “bloom” over the year. At the end of the school year, the researchers came back and re-tested the children. Those children labeled as “intelligent” showed significantly greater increase in testing over the other children in the school. The change in the teachers’ expectations of the children led to a concrete change in the children’s test results.
Expectations are a powerful force in life. Think about any instance when you have been unhappy and I bet you can link the unhappiness to an expectation that was not met. The truth is, what we believe to be and what we believe will be has a great impact on what actually is. Tap into the learners’ expectations, meet them and you have a dynamic learning experience. The only way to do this is to create dialogue, be flexible and trust your ability to go where the learning conversation needs to go.
How to do this?
1-Do a reality check on your expectations. Are you expecting a certain reaction to the content? Are you expecting a certain level of interest or disinterest from the learner? Are you expecting that “this group” won’t do “this activity”? Be careful that your expectations are shaped by reality–observations of what learners need, concrete data and real listening give us a good picture of expectations and a map to meeting them.
2-Start with an expectations exercise. At the beginning of a course, ask the learners to reflect on and answer the question, “It is the end of this session and you leave thinking to yourself, “This was a good investment of my time.” What expectations would be met for you to feel this was a meaningful investment of time?”
After individually answering, have table groups combine their thoughts into themes. Mindmap all the responses shared from the table groups. You can now connect the agenda to the expectations, adjust as needed and handle any gaps up front.
In a first-time manager course we developed for a client, we simply created a page in the course workbook that describes the Oak School experiment. For the 4mat-savvy, this was our Attend (1L) activity. We then asked the participants to answer two questions individually and in group:
What is the relationship between expectations and performance?
How does this relationship impact your role in leading your team to higher performance?
Invite dialogue around expectations. Lead the learner to a shared expectation of the course outcomes. You will create more happiness in the world.