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Experimenter expectancy effect on children in a classroom setting

Experimenter Expectancy Effect On Children in a Classroom Setting

Rosenthal and Jacobson (1966) sought to test the experimenter expectancy

effect by examining how much of an outcome teachers' expectancies could have on

a group of children. Earlier investigations in this area were also conducted by

Rosenthal (1963). He worked with children in a research lab, giving each one a

rat and telling them it was either bred for intelligence or for dullness. The

children were put in charge of teaching the rats how to learn mazes.

Rosenthal's results showed that the rats that were believed by the students to

be smart, were able to learn the mazes much quicker. What the children did not

know, i.e., what Rosenthal had kept hidden, was that the rats were chosen at

random. There were no rats that were especially bright or dull. Another case

of the experimenter expectancy effect was that of the horse known as "Clever

Hans". It seemed to be able to read, spell, and solve math problems by kicking

his leg a number of times. The horse was tested and passed, but what the

experts did not realize was that their own hopes for the horse to answer the

questions, were giving the horse signs on which he based his answers. That is,

if someone on the committee raised his/her eyebrows in anticipation of the

oncoming correct answer, the horse would stop stomping. Once again, the

experimenter's cues decided the outcome of the tests. Acting on these results,

Rosenthal and Jacobson hypothesized that teacher's expectancies would cause them

unintentionally to treat the students they thought to be bright in a different

manner than those they thought to be average or even less bright.

Rosenthal and Jacobson used some materials that were important in the

completing their investigation. The experimenters used students and their

teachers as the subjects of their study. As part of their experiment, they even

chose which grades the students would be in. They also used Flanagan's Tests of

General Ability as a disguise to predict academic expectancies. The

experimenters did not use anything else in their experiment but instead let

their subjects do the rest. Rosenthal and Jacobson's goal was to see how

teachers would treat students whom they thought were of above average

intelligence in comparison to how they treated students whom they believed were

of below average intelligence.

As with all experiments, there needed to be variables. In trying to

test teacher's expectancies, Rosenthal and Jacobson used labels for children as

their independent variable. The labels used were "bloomers" for children who

were expected to be above average, while the other group of children were

labeled as average. Rosenthal and Jacobson wanted to see how children being

labeled as dull or bright would contribute to how teachers would react to them.

The teacher's reaction tended to be in the form of giving the bright children

more attention and expecting them to score higher grades and perform better in

class. Because the teacher's reaction depends on how the children were labeled,

it was dependent on the first variable. The teacher's reactions to the

children's labels, was the experimenter's dependent variable.

Rosenthal and Jacobson controlled every aspect of the experiment. They

chose which children would be seen as dull or bright by having scores from

Flanagan's Test of General Ability sent to the teachers. They also chose which

grades of children would be used and which teachers would be in the experiment.

The experimenters maintained a high degree of control, and they told no one else

of what they were really studying.

The children in the experimental group averaged 12.2 points of

improvement in their intellectual growth. The students in the control group

averaged 8.2 points of intellectual growth. Reporting the average is not an

accurate way of showing the difference in IQ point increases though. The third

through sixth grade reported almost no difference in the gains, but the first

and second grades differed as much as 15 points. The difference in scores shows

the effect that teachers can have on their students. Particularly in the first

and second grades, the amount that teachers expect from their students is the

amount they will receive.

This study could be improved in a few ways. First, the students were

tested at the end of the school year with the same test they had been given to

initially decide their IQs. A different test of intelligence should be given to

the students. Being given the same test, some of the students may be given the

same questions which is an unfair advantage to them because they will know the

answers from the previous test. Another way to improve the study would be by

having the study performed in both private and public schools and by starting it

in preschool and ending it at eighth grade in stead of sixth.

Because of this survey, a consequent study was performed by Chaiken,

Sigler, and Derlega (1974). They set up a camera in a classroom in which

teachers had been informed that some of the students were gifted while others

were dull. The recording showed that teachers tended to smile more at the

supposedly gifted students, acted more favorably to their comments in class, and

made more eye contact with them. Other new research that could be performed

would be a study to see what would happen if a teacher was told his/her entire

class was either gifted or dull and see how they react to an entire class like

that.

I have learned a lot from this article. Having a desire to become a

teacher, this article has shown me just how much of a reaction my attention to

students may have on them. I would like to become a high school or college

professor. Even though Rosenthal and Jacobson's experiment revealed that the

older the children, the less they were affected by the teacher's expectancies, I

would like to see the same experiment performed on high school children. This

would reinforce Rosenthal and Jacobson's findings and take some pressure away

from how teachers feel they have to react to older students.

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