In 1960s, Robert Rosenthal, currently a Professor of Psychology at Univ of California, along with and Lenore Jacobson had conducted a series interesting experiments about what a teacher - and his/her beliefs, hopes, biases and prejudices - can do to a student.
The findings of their unsettling study finally got published as a book: The Pygmalion in the Classroom
...and have been replicated more than 350 times since then....
The experimental design was simple:
Randomly select a groups of students, and group of teachers. Tell the teachers that they are going to teach some of the brightest of the brains in the school.
The Result: The students out-performed their batch, even though they had no "real" differentiating "merit".
Rosenthal's studies were about the schools, so one issue that begged the questions:
does this apply to higher education?
Apparently, it does, as he shared the example of the juniors he teaches:
- "I ask them to define a research problem, search the literature, design an experiment and come in with results all in one semester. Now nobody can do all that in one semester. I can't do that in one semester, but these are juniors: they don't know it can't be done; so they all do it. They do amazing things."
Some other later studies also identified the reasons for such perceptions (which are quite relevant to contemporary Indian acadmic environment) for such perceptions - and therefore, lower performance among students:
Rosenthal's book ends with a quote from GB Shaw's play "Pygmalion":
- ..."You see, really and truly, apart from the things anyone can pick up (the dressing and the proper way of speaking, and so on), the difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she's treated. I shall always be a flower girl to Professor Higgins, because he always treats me as a flower girl, and always will; but I know I can be a lady to you, because you always treat me as a lady, and always will."
It all depends on....
How do you treat Eliza Doolittle?
... As a "lady" or as a "flower girl"?!!!
Expectations & Student Outcomes
Pygmalion In The Classroom
"Proper" English & Reservations-of-a-Different-Kind
Quota/Reservations: More ""Reserved" than Others