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Current Issue Table of Contents | Back Issues

MARCH 2001
Volume 2 Number 3

Teachers.Net celebrates 5 years this month! Read about how teachers across the planet have visited and contributed to shape this most dynamic of collaborative educator projects!
Effective Teaching by Harry & Rosemary Wong
Promoting Learning by Marv Marshall
Alfie Kohn Article
4 Blocks by Cheryl Sigmon
School Psychologist by Beth Bruno
Jan Fisher Column
BCL Classroom by Kim Tracy
Reform Demands on Educators
Bullies: Advice for Teachers
Around the Block With...
Are Black Children Treated Differently?
The Cherub
Brain Awareness Week
Celebrating Dr. Seuss
The Issue of Violence in Our Schools
Rethinking How We Raise Teenagers
Contextual Clarity Before Curricular Concept
Early Mainstreaming for Visually Impaired
How Do You Stop a Bully?
Technology Integration
Is Distance Learning For You?
Short Fiction Paradigm Shift
The Unsinkable Sub
Things I Learned From My Daughter
Preventing Rules From Falling Apart
Web News & Events
Upcoming Ed Conferences
Letters to the Editor
New in the Lesson Bank
Humor from the Classroom
Help Wanted - Teaching Jobs
Gazette Back Issues
Gazette Home Delivery:

About Beth Bruno...
Beth is a freelance writer and editor with more than 20 years of experience in mental health and education. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a B.A. in Psychology in 1966. She continued her education at Harvard University (Ed.M. in Educaton, 1967) and Yeshiva University (M.A. in Clinical Psychology, 1976). Beth has served as Chair of the Psychology Department for the Special Children's Center in Ithaca, New York, and has worked as Adjunct Instructor at Tompkins-Cortland Community College.

Beth Bruno has always been "fascinated by people--their motives, emotions, what makes them tick." Her ability to "read people and connect with them" is a true gift. As a school psychologist, her philosophy is not to solve problems for people, but rather "to help people discover their inner resources and create ways to help themselves." "Some people fear the unknown," she says. "I welcome it, because I can usually make the best of whatever happens." Beth encourages questions from young people, adults, educators and professionals. She will do her best to answer each question personally and in a timely manner. She can be reached via email at

Click here for more articles by Beth Bruno.

Ask a School Psychologist
by Beth Bruno, Ed.M., M.A.

The Pygmalion Effect

A parent sent me the following unforgettable letter:

"I have been outraged by the low expectations for success that seem to be prevalent for students who struggle to learn. I have been driven by my rejection of those low expectations. "I am not employed as a Special Educator, nor do I hold a degree in Special Education, but I am a "special educator" as my son's mother and committed advocate.

"After years of struggle in the elementary and middle schools, a comment made by a school psychologist when our son was in the 8th grade has been burned into my memory. "I think we can all agree," this specialist said, "that your son will not attend a competitive college." "I fought to keep him in college prep courses; I fought to get him speech services; I fought to get him access to assistive technology; and twice I have enlisted the help of attorneys to make it happen.

"Well, he's a high school Senior now. Things are not perfect, but they are much better than they would have been if I had just gone along to get along. He has chosen to seek a degree in soil science and has been accepted at Michigan State University, the University of Rhode Island and the University of Massachusetts. He is still waiting to hear from four other schools. We know there is a long way to go, but we've made it our business to be aware of the rights and responsibilities that go along with being a post secondary student with a Learning Disability."

This mother's letter reminds me of a research study I read many years ago. In a classic experiment done in the late 60's, Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jackson worked with elementary school children from 18 classrooms. They randomly chose 20% of the children from each room and told the teachers they were "intellectual bloomers." They explained that these children could be expected to show remarkable gains during the year. Results: The experimental children showed average IQ gains of two points in verbal ability, seven points in reasoning and four points in overall IQ.

How can this possibly work?

In "Pygmalion in the Classroom," l968, Rosenthal replies, "To summarize our speculations, we may say that by what she said, by how and when she said it, by her actual facial expressions, postures and perhaps by her touch, the teacher may have communicated to the children of the experimental group that she expected improved intellectual performance. Such communication together with possible changes in teaching techniques may have helped the child learn by changing his self concept, his expectations of his own behavior and his motivation, as well as his cognitive style and skills."

The power of expectations may work against students with special needs, because these students carry labels derived from test scores that some teachers and parents might think "justify" reduced expectations. But that same information might also lead parents and educators to develop compensatory strategies to help a child set and meet high expectations by an alternate route.

The process of setting expectations for children is tricky, because teachers and parents don't want to push a child to achieve beyond his or her capabilities and then see that child stop trying due to fear of failure. Best practices dictate that teachers and parents take the time to get to know each child as an individual, so that all three the parent, the teacher and the child -- can set realistic expectations by adjusting to individual needs during the learning process.

Yes, we educate our children in schools and in groups, but we must never let any child become so anonymous in a group that we lose track of that child's individual needs and aspirations. National pressure on teachers to meet externally imposed standards further complicates the picture for teachers who are interested in setting standards according to individual student needs and abilities. Optimally, educators will find ways to help students meet minimal standards, yet also support student potential to reach beyond minimums for personal excellence.


Self-fulfilling prophecy: The Pygmalion Effect:

Raising expectations to improve student learning:

Successful detracking in middle and senior high schools:

Beth Bruno
Welcome to Insights, the Luckiest Spot on the Internet

Click here for more articles by Beth Bruno.