10 Ways Teachers Can Communicate Expectations to Students

Methods for Letting Students Know What You Expect

In any endeavor, if you do not understand what others expect from you then you will have a much greater likelihood of failure. However, many teachers fail to let students know exactly what they expect of them. One key to success in getting students to succeed is being completely transparent with them about your expectations. However, it is not enough to simply state them at the beginning of the school year. Following are ten ways that you can not only communicate but also reinforce your expectations to students each and every day.

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Post Expectations Around the Room

Teacher Communicating with Class

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From the first day of class, the expectations for academic and social success should be publicly visible. While many teachers post their class rules for all to see, it is also a great idea to post your expectations. You can do this through a poster that you create similar to the one you might use for class rules, or you can select posters with inspirational quotes sayings that reinforce your expectations such as:

High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation.
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Have Students Sign an "Achievement Contract"

An achievement contract is an agreement between teacher and student. The contract outlines specific expectations from students but also includes what students can expect from you as the year progresses.

Taking the time to read through the contract with the students can set a productive tone. Students should sign the contract and you should very publicly sign the contract as well. 

If you wish, you could also have this sent home for a parent signature as well to ensure that their parents are informed.

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Give Students Space

Students need opportunities to show what they already know and can do. Before scaffolding a lesson, check for prior knowledge. 

Even when students experience the discomfort of not knowing, they are learning how to deal with productive struggle. They need to become more comfortable with working through problem-solving so they will have the chance to experience the personal satisfaction of coming up with a solution.

You should avoid the desire to jump right in and help a struggling student by simply providing them the answers to their questions but instead lead them to find the answers for themselves.

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Create a Written Dialogue

A great tool to make sure that students feel connected and empowered is to create a written dialogue tool. You can either have a periodic assignment for students to complete or an ongoing back-and-forth journal.

The purpose of this kind of communication is to have students write about how they feel they are doing in your class. You can use their comments and your own space to personally guide them while reinforcing your expectations.

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Have a Positive Attitude

Make sure that you do not harbor any specific biases towards student learning

Develop a growth mindset by helping your students believe that their most basic abilities can be developed, and improved upon. Use positive feedback by saying phrases such as:

  • "Show me more." 
  • "How did you do that?"
  • "How did you figure that out?" 
  • "That looks like it took a lot of effort." 
  • "How many ways did you try it before it turned out the way you wanted it?" 
  • "What do you plan to do next?"  

Developing a growth mindset with students creates a love of learning and a resilience.  Try to always maintain a positive attitude. Your language must support students and help them believe that can and will learn.

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Get to Know Your Students

A positive teacher-student relationship is a wonderful thing to inspire students to learn and achieve. Here are steps to take at the beginning of the school year to set the tone:

  • Take the effort to learn students’ names by the end of the first week.
  • Connect with families in the first few weeks of school.
  • Share academic and social goals for the year.

If you allow students to see you as a real person, and you can connect with them and their needs, then you will find that many will achieve simply to please you.

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Remain in Charge

Very little can happen when you have poor classroom management. Teachers who allow students to disrupt class unchecked will find that their classroom situation will quickly deteriorate. Always remember that you are the teacher and the leader of the class.

Another trap for many teachers is trying to be friends with their students. While it is great to be friendly with your students, being a friend can lead to problems with discipline and ethics. In order to have students meet your expectations, they need to know that you are the authority in the class.

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Be Clear

It is very hard, if not impossible, for students to know your expectations on behaviors, assignments, and tests if you do not clearly express them from the beginning. Keep directions short and simple. Do not fall in the habit of repeating directions; once should be enough. Students can understand what they need to learn and do to be successful at any point in time.

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Cheer Your Students On

You should be a cheerleader for your students, letting them know as often as possible that you know they can succeed. Use positive reinforcement whenever you can by appealing to their interests. Know what they like to do outside of school and give them a chance to share these interests. Let them know that you believe in them and their abilities. 

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Allow Revisions

When students turn in an assignment that is poorly done, you may allow them to revise their work. They may be able to turn work in for additional points. A second chance allows them to demonstrate how their skills have grown. You are looking for students to demonstrate final mastery of the subject.

Revision promotes mastery learning. In revising their work, students may feel as though they have more control. You can provide them with additional assistance as needed on the way to their achieving the objectives you have set for them.