The Pygmalion effect – How Teachers’ Expectations Affect Students’ Achievement

The Pygmalion effect describes how a teacher’s higher expectations lead to the student’s higher performance. If a teacher believes that certain students are late bloomers, there’s a good chance that they will become exactly that.

Pygmalion effects in the classroom

This effect can be found in different settings, but here we’ll focus on the classroom and the discovery by two American psychologists, Rosenthal and Jacobson, who conducted a study to test if children could be brighter when expected to be by their teachers. In another words, whether changes in teacher expectations produce changes in student achievement [2].

In their study, at the beginning of the school year, all of the children in the study were given an intelligence test, which was disguised as a test that would predict intellectual “blooming”. About 20% of the children were chosen at random and the teachers of these children were told that their scores on that test indicated they would show surprising gains in intellectual competence during the next few months of school. The important thing to remember is that the only difference between those children was in the minds of their teachers.

At the end of the school year, all the children were re-tested with the same test. The children from whom the teachers had been led to expect greater intellectual gain showed a greater gain than did the other children.

girl thinking positively about studying

How to use these effects to achieve better performance among students?

Teachers, but also parents, influence whether children will have higher or lower achievement. So, now when we are aware of the power of our expectations, one question arises – how can we help our children?

  1. Look for the good and positive things in each child. Find something to like or appreciate about every child, even if it’s their independence and tenacity. The teacher’s behavior is important. However, there’s more to it than that – it’s about the way you think about the child.
  2. Be aware of your effect. Teachers should always bear in mind that their behavior can affect a student’s performance. Although it’s impossible to like all students equally, it is imperative that they are all treated equally.
  3. Reconsider your treatment. Think about how you treat students you find smart/charming and compare that treatment to the way you approach those you find uninteresting/annoying. Who do you criticize more? Who receives more attention?
  4. More positive treatment. Try to give more attention to students you neglected before. Also, reinforce them if you see them struggling or feeling unsure. This way they’ll be more motivated to raise their hands and ask questions. Consequently, they’ll work harder at your subject and do much better in it.

We, at Nobel Coaching and Tutoring, believe in your student! Achieving better performance demands hard work, but with our help it is much easier and faster. Therefore, there’s one more way to help – you can schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation with one of our Coaches HERE.


[1] Babad, E. Y., Inbar, J., & Rosenthal, R. (1982). Pygmalion, Galatea, and the Golem: Investigations of biased and unbiased teachers. Journal of Educational Psychology,74(4), 459-474. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.74.4.459
[2] Rosenthal, R., & Jacobson, L. (1968). Pygmalion in the classroom. The urban review, 3(1), 16-20.

Nobel Coaching & Tutoring: A Referable, Complementary Resource

As all licensed school counselors are aware, The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) developed an extremely valuable tool called The ASCA National Model: A Framework for School Counseling Programs (3) that identifies how a school counselor can be most effective in the school. Not only does it define what a comprehensive, data-driven school counseling program looks like, it also suggests a suitable student-to-school-counselor ratio, and helps counselors determine appropriate activities and how best to allocate their time.

To briefly depict the “ideal” school counselor scenario: All school counselors will have a ratio of maximum 250 students to each school counselor, will be able to use at least 80% of their time providing direct or indirect services, and will only engage in designated “appropriate” activities.

There is a small percentage of school counselors in the nation who are fortunate enough to work in this ideal scenario, which means they are probably more likely to be able to prove their effectiveness by addressing all of the ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors for Student Success: K-12 College- and Career-Readiness Standards for Every Student (2) through evidence-based practices. These same school counselors are probably able to engage in professional development activities to ensure they are up to date with the best practices and latest research so they meet all the ASCA School Counselor Competencies (4) on which many school counselors are now being evaluated through state legislation.

Many school counselors are inspired by this scenario that ASCA has laid out so perfectly and will add to their list of responsibilities to advocate more and more for their role, hopefully with some success. Many other school counselors are shrugging their shoulders in despair because they know they will never ever be free of inputting student schedules or planning the administration of state testing or daily supervising students during lunch.  This discouragement is not necessarily because they are not advocating or because their administration doesn’t know they would be more effective without those extra roles or additional students, but because resources are scarce and all their colleagues are also stretched and pulling more weight than they would like as well.

Many educators may be even more worried because resources are likely to be stretched further based upon the decreased funding by the federal government as proposed in the President’s FY 2018 Budget Request for the U.S. Department of Education (5). Regardless of whether the long-term effects are positive or negative, there will be additional fiscal pressure put on schools until states and local communities are able to find ways to replace the money, which will probably be done through property-owning taxpayers. Using property taxes to fund vital, but not necessarily mandated resources, like school counseling services, has been considered unconstitutional by many, since property taxes in many urban or rural communities are much lower than in affluent suburban communities.

School counselors are creative and tenacious, though!  Even when their student-to-counselor ratio is 500 or 650 or 800 or 1200 to 1, they are still making a difference in the lives of so many students. They use their organizational and time-management skills to allocate their services to impact as many students as possible, while being responsive to those students most in need. They discuss options with their administration and colleagues to support students, families, and staff members as comprehensively as possible. They address barriers to learning and work cooperatively with other student services personnel within the school. They notice when more intensive support is needed and refer students and families to outside resources to address potential mental health and/or learning needs.

School counselors are very aware of student needs, but sometimes they are unable to meet them fully, usually through no fault of their own. They literally cannot do all the work that is on their plate in many instances. When the additional responsibilities, i.e. test administration, scheduling, coordinating student study teams, lunch/recess duty, etc., are not going to be lifted from their plates anytime soon, they have to be extra creative. Oddly enough, many school counselors may start hyper-focusing on one main responsibility or on a limited number of students in their caseloads.

As mentioned before, ASCA has identified a fairly comprehensive list of “Inappropriate Activities for School Counselors” that many school counselors use to advocate for their role to administrators, usually with an attempt to stop assisting with discipline or enforcing dress codes or covering lunch duty. However, many school counselors find it difficult to not engage in long-term counseling in schools to address mental health conditions, either diagnosed or undiagnosed. Fortunately, ASCA has also developed the ASCA Ethical Standards for School Counselors (1), where there are many detailed examples of how school counselors can support students while making the most ethical decisions, including an entire section on Appropriate Referrals and Advocacy – A.6.a-e.


Inappropriate Activities for School Counselors:

“providing therapy or long-term counseling in schools to address psychological disorders”


A.6. Appropriate Referrals and Advocacy
b. Provide a list of resources for outside agencies and resources in their community to student(s) and parents/guardians when students need or request additional support. School counselors provide multiple referral options or the district’s vetted list and are careful not to indicate an endorsement or preference for one counselor or practice. School counselors encourage parents to interview outside professionals to make a personal decision regarding the best source of assistance for their student.


c. Connect students with services provided through the local school district and community agencies and remain aware of state laws and local district policies related to students with special needs, including limits to confidentiality and notification to authorities as appropriate.


d. Develop a plan for the transitioning of primary counseling services with minimal interruption of services. Students retain the right for the referred services to be done in coordination with the school counselor or to discontinue counseling services with the school counselor while maintaining an appropriate relationship that may include providing other school support services.

Often the school counselor is only trying to help even when they know that the school setting is rarely the best therapeutic location and even when they know they are not licensed and/or hired for this relationship with students. Sometimes the school counselor does not have a trustworthy or local resource to refer students and families too, or the family finds it difficult to follow through with the referral due to busy schedules and inconvenient appointment times. This makes it difficult for school counselors to just watch a student suffer without the support they need.  Refraining from long-term counseling in school is even more difficult when the students’ teachers continue to ask for assistance because the students may be at risk for failure, dropping out, not graduating, decreased chance of college acceptance, or suspension/expulsion from school, due to insufficient executive functioning skills, lack of motivation or confidence, or other issues.

School counselors can and should work with these students by providing organizational tools, developing skills for resilience, engaging in goal-setting, addressing chronic truancy, and working on short-term, solution-focused problem-solving to remove barriers to accessing their education. School counselors cannot and should not meet with every student individually to work on underlying reasons why they are not finding success or optimizing their life weekly for ongoing counseling.

Nobel Coaching & Tutoring is available as a referable resource for those school counselors who know their students need additional support from a trustworthy agency. Nobel Coaching & Tutoring is convenient for those families who are busy and active. Nobel Coaching & Tutoring is accessible globally for any type of community. Nobel Coaching & Tutoring is here to support school counselors in their mission, expand their circle of influence, open the door for students to obtain the extra support they need, and assist parents who want to help their children.  Nobel Coaching & Tutoring is the bridge between school counseling and more traditional therapeutic interventions.

Not only does Nobel Coaching & Tutoring perfectly complement the work of school counselors, Nobel Coaching & Tutoring thinks very similarly to school counselors: They know that social-emotional learning is equally as important as building math, reading, and content skills. The students work with a Coach who is specifically trained to help address issues in motivation and focus. Students are also matched with Tutors who are experts in closing gaps in understanding in all subject areas. Another belief that Nobel Coaching & Tutoring shares with school counselors is that parents and families also need guidance in figuring out how to help their kids, so the Coaches also work with caregivers to ensure the student is really getting the comprehensive support they need. All of the services are offered online through Skype and other virtual applications at the convenience of students and families.

Many school counselors may be hesitant because this resource is new and different. However, most school counselors understand that the culture of social-emotional wellness and assistance is evolving to become more aligned with 21st Century technology and lifestyles. They know one of their main goals is to reduce the stigma of seeking support. Furthermore, most, if not all, school counselors know how much kids enjoy seeing themselves on their screens, too!

If you are a school counselor, school psychologist, school administrator, school teacher, or parent or guardian, Nobel Coaching & Tutoring wants to hear from you. Their goal is to complement what is being done in the school already by supporting students and their families outside of school. School Counselors and Nobel Coaching & Tutoring have similar missions and can become a great collaborative team helping all students achieve success and reach their potential!

by Renee Stack

Citation Sources:

  1. ASCA Ethical Standards for School Counselors.
  2. ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors for Student Success: K-12 College- and Career-Readiness Standards for Every Student.
  3. ASCA National Model: A Framework for School Counseling Programs.
  4. ASCA School Counselor Competencies.
  5. FACT SHEET: President Trump’s FY 2018 Budget. A New Foundation for American Greatness. Prioritizing Students, Empowering Parents.


One of the more talked-about topics in psychology and especially in educational psychology is Carol Dweck’s idea of the “growth mindset”, a concept she discusses in her book Mindset: The new psychology of success. Growth mindset isn’t something that Dweck invented and is now teaching us all how to attain. It is a distinctive trait she observed in people who are happier and more successful, which led her to seek ways to help develop and nurture it in people who do not share this predisposition.

So what actually is growth mindset?

While working as a young researcher, Dweck noticed that some children face challenges in a much more “positive” way than others. They would say things like “Oh, I love a challenge” or “I expected this to be informative”, instead of having tragic and catastrophic thoughts when faced with difficulties. Dweck coined the term “fixed mindset” for children who shrink before obstacles, and “growth mindset” for those who seek challenges and become even more engaged when faced with obstacles. Of course, these two mindsets apply to us all, and it is important to note that whereas we can’t have a growth mindset in every area of our lives, we sure can try to develop it.

To show what growth mindset really is, let’s try to contrast it further with the fixed mindset. People with a fixed mindset think that their characteristics are carved in stone and can never be changed. They firmly believe that intelligence, creativity, and personality are things we are born with and can hardly be something we develop. People with a growth mindset believe we can cultivate these characteristics through effort and that the process of cultivating them is more important than the actual outcome. A fixed mindset, on the other hand, wants results right away and doesn’t care as much about the process as it does about the outcome. Of course, Dweck doesn’t deny that people differ from the get-go, but she claims that we can all “change and grow through application and experience”.

Another thing that differentiates these two mindsets is how they perceive and react to failure. People with a fixed mindset are more likely to believe they can fail and that by doing so their abilities will be questioned. Just the act of hitting obstacles would prove to them that they aren’t capable of overcoming them. People with a growth mindset, on the other hand, don’t really see failure as on option – obstacles are just perceived as opportunities to improve and learn, and by being faced with them and, generally something new, we get smarter.

Dweck illustrates this difference further with an interesting remark about language and how we use it to rate success. She mentions how saying “not yet” to students instead of saying they failed a class is a much better way to show them that even if they have difficulties overcoming something now, the time will come when they will succeed if they continue tackling the obstacle from different angles. The use of “yet” shows that there is a learning curve, and points to the process, not the outcome. This also tells children that they aren’t being taught to learn simply for grades, but for their future and it encourages them to dream big and think about what they want to do with their lives, instead of on focusing only on what they are currently achieving in school.

This entire idea of the power of yet and growth mindset isn’t just something Dweck came up with and wrote overnight. She (and many others) actually did research and showed time and time again that if a growth mindset is encouraged, children earn better grades and achieve better results than they did before – even better than some of their peers from much more affluent schools, which shows that growth mindset is a great path to achieving a more equal education system.
This research illustrates two important facts about growth mindset: it does work and it can be developed. It is not something we are born with.

What is a false growth mindset?

Developing a growth mindset has never been easier. 

Book your FREE CONSULTATION with one of our Coaches.

Before we dive into the exciting topic of how a growth mindset can be developed, we need to do some myth-busting. As with any other trending topic in education, it is hard nowadays to avoid the words “have to”, “need to”, and “all” when reading about growth mindset. It is often declared that we should all have to develop growth mindsets because they are just so much better, which ignores the principle behind the concept. Firstly, a growth mindset isn’t something you can just achieve overnight. It takes a lot of work and develops over time. Secondly, it isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card you can use whenever you’re faced with difficulty. Dweck points out that we are a mixture of both growth mindset and fixed mindset, and at different times and in different areas of our lives either one can predominate.

Another point she makes is that people often claim they have a growth mindset when they actually don’t or use the concept of a fixed mindset to excuse why someone is failing when the only failure is actually not providing the context in which a growth mindset can be achieved. It is also easy to think that simply by encouraging children and praising their effort, we are developing their growth mindsets. It’s a bit more complicated than that – it is not just about praising, it is about praising the right way.

So how is a growth mindset developed?

Developing a growth mindset is a complex process, but it is not unattainable and can actually serve as a great first obstacle on which to practice our mindsets.

The main point that Dweck makes is that a growth mindset is developed through praise, but not the usual after-the-fact praise which focuses on outcomes, but the praise that focuses on the process of learning. This isn’t about blanketing children in praise for any of their efforts, but about praising the strategies they used and the entire process that leads to outcomes. A simple example of this would be saying “I love how you tried all these different strategies while solving this problem until you got it” instead of saying “Great job. I knew you’d get it, you are smart!”

That example showcases another point that Dweck makes; we should praise the process, not the abilities. Praising abilities encourages the fixed mindset that these things are set in stone, which definitely doesn’t promote change or development. Rather, it makes children think that what they can do is what they can do and the same applies for what they can’t do.

Another reason why Dweck insists “it is not the outcome, it is the effort that counts” is ineffective is because it lets students believe that if they try hard enough, they will succeed no matter their strategies. In effect, it can bring them to repeat the same futile strategies over and over again. On the other hand, insisting on the process or the use of multiple strategies until the obstacle is overcome, and praising that effort, teaches them that they need to change their strategies in order solve the problem. It also shows them they can use all the resources available and ask for help when they need it.

And finally, Dweck points out that even failure should be addressed as something that enhances learning. We can ask children “What is this teaching us? What should we do next?” instead of either praising the effort or protecting them by saying things like “Don’t worry, not everyone can be good in everything. You are not the only one that failed.” In both cases, we are developing a fixed mindset and letting children know that we believe they can’t do better, while a switch in mindsets would help them achieve so much more and help them in their future lives.

If you are already thinking of implementing these ideas while raising your child, there is more encouraging news. The growth mindset isn’t something we can start developing only in early childhood, Dweck says it is never too late for change, so why not try it on yourself, too, and see how it goes.


Help your child develop Growth Mindset.

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