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Anneke Timmermans: what influence does an individual teacher have on a pupil’s chances?

What influence does an individual teacher have on a pupil’s chances?

Over 50 years ago, Rosenthal and Jacobson demonstrated that the expectations of teachers can influence the intelligence of school pupils, which has since been proven beyond doubt. Expectations determine the subject matter offered, the pupil’s place in the classroom, the composition of groups, interactions between teachers and pupils and pupil performance. The recommendations provided by teachers regarding a pupil’s further education are also a form of expectation. In the Netherlands, these recommendations play a leading role in a pupil’s transition to secondary education.

Anneke Timmermans

My research focuses on differences between teachers in what they expect from a pupil and their recommendations for further schooling that they give. Some teachers recommend much more advanced schools to their pupils than others. For example, one teacher will recommend a VWO school, while a colleague may advise a comparable child to enrol in a HAVO school.

Some teachers also differentiate in their expectations of the pupils’ potential. For example, some teachers have virtually the same expectations for all pupils in the classroom, regardless of their skills, while other teachers base their expectations on pupil performance or other characteristics. The latter seem more susceptible to stereotyping. Differences in performance between ethnic-cultural groups or gender are magnified by the expectations and recommendations of these teachers. After a year, it appears that the classes in which teachers differentiate less in expectations perform remarkably better. These teachers are likely to be more flexible in instruction and classification, providing similar chances to all pupils. All in all, the teacher has a great influence on the opportunities that a pupil is offered.

dr. A.C. (Anneke) Timmermans
First name
Associate professor Educational Sciences with ius promovendi
Teacher expectations, Track recommendations, Educational effectiveness, educational accountability, Value added, Multilevel analysis, School transitions, Physical Education
Last modified:03 September 2019 1.56 p.m.
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