Getting Our Students Wrong

The consequences of pigeonholing students

“Why is it always so surprising when students prove our initial impressions of them wrong?” asks David Gooblar for Chronicle Vitae, recounting many cases in which making wrong assumptions about a student’s ability or work ethic  led to negative consequences.

The trouble, as Gooblar sees it, is that teachers often create narratives around certain students and have difficulty thinking about those students outside those narratives.

“As we try to learn who our students are, we latch onto almost anything that will help us differentiate them,” adds the author. “Sometimes we work so hard  to figure out each student—this one is a good writer, that one has good ideas but needs help explaining her thinking—that it can take the better part of a whole   semester to realize that our first impression was wrong.”

Gooblar goes on to cite research demonstrating the negative effects on both teaching and student performance that can come from teachers relying on such narratives.

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Full disclosure: The featured photo above we see ten happy RMC Cadets and four proud Profs. It was only used to provide context for the article.