This section of my website used to be dedicated to triathlon training, personal race results and certification reviews, like Turbo Kick. I am expanding it to include more generic health & fitness topics. Also, I talk a lot about "D" -- he's my husband (Dave Liu)!

Saturday, November 15, 2003

The Pygmalion Effect

Here's a WSJ (subscription may be required) on expectation effects, also known as the Pygmalion effect:

"Expectation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy," says Robert Rosenthal, professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside. "When teachers have been led to expect better intellectual performance from their students, they tend to get it. When coaches are led to expect better athletic performance from their athletes, they tend to get it. When behavioral researchers are led to expect a certain response from their research subjects, they tend to get it."

Expectations are communicated verbally and otherwise. Professor Rosenthal refers to the "nonverbal, subtle and usually unintentional messages" used to convey expectations as covert communication.

I experienced this first hand with a step class I started teaching a few months ago. It used to be taught by a single instructor but she had to give up the class. I later found that she used the same routine all the time so everybody knew all the moves.

After her departure, nobody was able to commit to that class full-time, so a rotating schedule was created instead where different instructors teach it each weekend. For some reason, I assumed that the participants were intermediate/advanced, so I have been delivering classes to them at that level of choreography and intensity. There was a wee bit of a learning curve as they adjusted to my method of cueing but they've been able to follow my classes beautifully. They really stepped up to the plate (pardon the pun).

Imagine my surprise when I received an email from a fellow step instructor who said that she has recently seen a dramatic improvement in participants' step skills. She said that when she subbed this class a long time ago, she was disappointed to find that the participants were still basic steppers even though they had all taken the class for a long time. She subbed the class again lately and was pleasantly surprised at how much better they were. She thought that they had greatly benefited from a rotating structure which forced them to adapt to different instructor styles. Cool.

No comments: