The Pygmalion effect

As a tutor, many times you have to be able to face the lack of motivation of your students. Most of the times, you realise that this lack is related to computers, mobiles phone, and friends… Most of the times there is nothing else behing, because as you can imagine these are the many ideas that are around children’ mind. But, what if this lack of motivation would be the result of a previous bad experience? What if a students is not able to complete a task because in the past somebody have tell him or her that he or she was not good at it?

Today, we had been working on Pygmalion effect.

Pursuit of Happiness

I focussed on showing the children the Pygmalion effect and the power of positive expectation. For that reason, today I wanted to do an experiment with my 3º ESO graders. It was easy to program, and the aim was clear: try showing them the effect of others in his or her work.

First of all, during the lesson, I asked to my students to draw an easy painting… let me show you.

Sunflowers, Vincent Van Gogh
Night Sky, Vincent Van Gogh

While a part of the students were drawing and painting, I chose my allies. I needed some students to help me in my task. So, I talked privately with the chosen ones and I explained to them what I want them to do. They have to encourage people who were not really good at drawing and at the same time discourage to all of those who are good at it.

After that, during the next 30 minutes, my group of allies and I walked around the classroom and we were truly committed with our task. We encouraged to all of those who are not used to hearing they good at drawing. The reaction was clear and fast: they gained confidence and kept drawing. On the other hand, when we discouraged the rest of them, those ones were not able to finish the task.

Then, the show was over and I explained to them the Pygmalion effect. Basically, they need to know that sometimes the things we say to others can have an effect. If it were positive, it would be nice. Otherwise, if it were negative, a single and poor comment could make a person not keep doing an activity and they will not try it any more.

We need to believe in the positive expectation, especially with our students. Sometimes, many of them are not able to perform a task because they are not expected to be. Teachers can transform by positive expectation children’ attitude and bad behaviour -based on negative expectations and lack of motivation-.

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