How to Set High Expectations for Students

Setting high expectations for students is the foundation of progress in the teaching-learning process.
How to Set High Expectations for Students
Azucena Fernández

Written and verified by the teacher Azucena Fernández.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

The schools that set high expectations for students and are able to maintain them are those that get the best results. Believing in the potential of students is, thus, one of the foundations of quality education.

It’s essential for teachers to set high expectations for students as this can make them aware of their capabilities. In other words, it allows them to know what they’re capable of achieving.

Educators and pedagogues frequently ask what expectations are. Education expert Joanne Foster focuses on the concept of outcome.

“Personally, I like the concept of outcome. It implies that something emerges – or comes out – as a result of input. For example, a combination of thought, hard work, patience, creativity, or collaborative activity. If an expectation is to be met, it requires effort.”

– Joanne Foster –

How to set high expectations for students

Not praising poor quality work

In his book High Expectations Teaching, educational consultant and researcher Jon Saphier says that “praising substandard work leads to low expectations.”

How to Set High Expectations for Students

Giving the message that poor quality work is good can have serious consequences. Encouraging underachieving students who aren’t doing a good job is very negative. If teachers do this, they don’t push them to aim for the standards they’re capable of reaching.

Sometimes, teachers encourage students with the best intentions in mind. However, doing it when you see that their work is of poor quality has a negative impact on the learning process.

It’s important to use praise and rewards strategically. Teachers must use feedback correctly.

Check for understanding

Teachers who set high expectations for their students want to know how much each of them progressed before leaving their classroom. It’s important to check for student understanding.

Teachers can review each student’s progress. For example, to do this, you can analyze the questions asked, comment on their work, and even listen to the conversations students have while working in a group. This way, they know you expect a lot from them.

React to outcome changes

A dramatic drop in student performance represents a big opportunity for a teacher to send messages about academic expectations. If a student has poor performance, you must let them know.

“You’re able to do so much more than this.” “We need to discover what’s happening and find a solution to get better results.” According to Jon Saphier, these kinds of comments can be very positive for students.

“Such comments can be a powerful stimulus for a student with poor academic performance. In addition, don’t forget that the language to be used in these situations must be tactful and subtle.”

– Jon Saphier –

Teachers should seek to ensure that the student believes in their ability to do things right. It’s about making them know that they do have that ability and that they’ve gotten poor results due to something they have (or haven’t) done.

Give feedback to students seeking success criteria

Positive feedback is an essential skill teachers must master. Good feedback lets students know if they’re right or wrong and allows self-correction and self-adaption.

“The most powerful weapon to improve student achievement is feedback.”

– Marzano –

How to Set High Expectations for Students

How to set high expectations for students

Some clear actions that demonstrate that a teacher sets high expectations for students can be easily grouped and summarized. Here are the keys ones:

  • Talk about the expectations often.
  • Ask questions that challenge students.
  • Demand rigor and detail in the answers.
  • Give them enough time to respond.
  • Require them to hand work in on time.
  • Praising them when they do well.

Finally, it’s important to remember that your actions and words should reflect the high expectations you set for your students. This way, you’ll motivate them and help them succeed.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Joanne F. Foster. (2017). Not Now Maybe Later: Helping Children Overcome Procrastination. Great Potential Press.
  • Jon Saphier.(2016). High Expectations Teaching: How We Persuade Students to Believe and Act on “smart Is Something You Can Get”. Paperback.
  • Robert J. Marzano. (2017). The New Art and Science of Teaching: more than fifty new instructional strategies for academic success.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.