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Active students through high expectations & a positive atmosphere

Last updated on 14 February 2024
An atmosphere of high expectations, trust and positivity activates students. It sounds logical, but how do you create it? Set a few ground rules for yourself at the start of the course or lesson and apply useful techniques. Read more about it in this tip.

Tip 1: give students confidence
Encourage students by showing that you expect a lot from them (Chickering and Gamson, 1987) because you will get more in return: the so-called Pygmalion effect. Both the less able and low effort students, and the smart and motivated students, need high expectations. The active expectation that students will perform well often works as a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

In any case, avoid the classical mistake of telling students that many of them will fail, at the beginning of a course. Is the unspoken message that your course is difficult, and therefore important? You might assume that you are encouraging students to study harder this way, but the opposite is often the result: for students, it becomes  an excuse for failing. 

Remember that high expectations also require an extra positive effort from you. High expectations mean that your course is of high quality and that you support your students well. It is all about well-balanced mutual expectations.

Tip 2: create a positive atmosphere
Research has shown that a positive atmosphere activates students: nodding, smiling, responding positively to reactions from the students and praising them, ensures that students will respond more readily to your questions and will work on assignments more enthusiastically.

A good ending of your class is also essential. Reflect on what the students have done with optimism. Let them know that their contribution has helped them achieve their learning goals and what the next steps will be. This kind of closure doesn’t  take much time: you can do it in less than five minutes.

You do not necessarily have to reflect on the lesson yourself. Let students do this by summarising the most important points of the meeting in an exit ticket. Or let them write about a subject that they still find confusing, or about which they still have questions. You can also give a short quiz at the end. Use this data and respond via Canvas, or use it at the start of the next lesson.

Reflecting also increases the learning results: by letting students reflect on what they have learned, it will sink in better.

Digital support
With Mentimeter you can quickly and anonymously offer open questions, and immediately  interactively see the results. This is ideal for use with the exit ticket technique.