10 Ways Teachers Can Communicate Expectations to Students

Teacher Communicating with Class
Teacher Communicating with Class. ColorBlind Images/ The Image Bank/ Getty Images

Many teachers fail to let students know exactly what they expect of them. One key to getting students to succeed is being completely transparent with them about your expectations. However, it is not enough to simply state your expectations at the beginning of the school year. Following are 10 ways that you can communicate and reinforce your expectations to students every day.

01
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Post Expectations Around the Room

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."
02
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Have Students Sign an "Achievement Contract"

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

Taking the time to read through the contract with 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 send the contract home for a parent signature as well to ensure that parents are informed.

03
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Get to Know Your Students

A positive teacher-student relationship can inspire students to learn and achieve. At the beginning of the school year:

  • Learn students’ names by the end of the first week.
  • Connect with families.
  • Share academic and social goals for the year.

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

04
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Be in Charge

Very little can happen if you have poor classroom management. Teachers who allow students to disrupt class will usually see their classroom situation quickly deteriorate. From the outset, be clear that you are 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. To have students meet your expectations, they need to know that you are the authority in the class.

05
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But Give Them Space to Learn

Students need opportunities to show what they already know and can do. Before conducting a lesson, check for prior knowledge. Even when students experience the discomfort of not knowing, they are learning how to work through a problem. This is important because students need to become better at problem-solving so that they will have the chance to experience the personal satisfaction of coming up with a solution.

Don't jump right in and help struggling students by simply providing them the answers to their questions; instead, guide them to find the answers for themselves.

06
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Be Clear in Your Directions

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 instructions; once should be enough. Students can understand what they need to learn and do to be successful if you explain briefly, and to the point, what you expect for each assignment.

07
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Create a Written Dialogue

A great tool to ensure 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—to guide them while reinforcing your expectations.

08
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Have a Positive Attitude

Ensure that you do not harbor any specific biases towards student learning. Develop a growth mindset by helping your students believe that they can develop, and even improve, their most basic abilities. Give positive feedback by using phrases including:

  • "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 resilience. Your language must support students and help them believe that they can and will learn.

09
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Support Your Students

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. Learn 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. 

10
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Allow Revisions

When students do a poor job on an assignment, give them a second chance. Allow them to revise their work to earn additional credit. A second chance allows students to demonstrate how their skills have increased.

Revision promotes mastery learning. In revising their work, students may feel as though they have more control. You can provide them with additional assistance—reminding students of your expectations for an assignment or project—on the way to their achieving the objectives you have set for them.