The Rosenthal effect

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Rosenthal’s most famous study was conducted with Lenore Jacobson in 1963 at an elementary school just south of San Francisco, California (Spiegel, 2012). His purpose was to figure out what would ensue if teachers would react differently towards certain students if told that a select number of students were expected to learn more information and more quickly than the pupils in their class. To test this, Rosenthal issued a Test of General Ability to the students in the beginning of the year (“Rosenthal’s Work, n.d.). After the students had completed this IQ test, some were chosen at random to be the students that were expected to academic bloomers; however, the results of the test did not influence which students of the class were chosen (Bruns et al., 2000). He continued to observe the interactions between teachers and students and decided to issue another IQ test at the end of the study to see how IQ has improved in students that were to be academic bloomers versus the control group (Spiegel, 2012).

Rosenthal’s and Jacobson’s results had reinforced their hypothesis that the IQs of the “academic bloomers” would in fact be higher than those of the control group even though these academic bloomers were chosen at random (Bruns et al., 2000). Especially in younger children like those in grades 1 and 2, there was a remarkable difference in the increases of IQ between the students chosen to be academic bloomers and those that were not. A reason for this is because younger children may be able to be influenced more greatly by their teachers, who are respected authorities (“Rosenthal’s Work”, n.d.).

The conclusions demonstrated by the study greatly illustrate the Pygmalion effect, or Rosenthal effect, which is the phenomenon that explains better performances by people when greater expectations are put on them (Bruns et al., 2000). For example, the teachers in the study, may have unnoticeably given the supposed academic bloomers more personal interactions, highly extensive feedback, more approval, and kind gestures, such as nods and smiling (Spiegel, 2012). On the other hand, teachers would generally pay less attention to low-expectancy students, seat them farther away from teachers in the classroom, and offer less reading and learning material (Bruns et al., 2000).

THE ROSENTHAL EXPERIMENT

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4 thoughts on “The Rosenthal effect

    awax1217 said:
    March 17, 2015 at 10:58

    I read your blog this morning. I taught for forty years. Sometimes I was surprised by the student everyone had given up on. He or she came up with something different. Usually something in art. They needed some way to express themselves. I tried poetry, drawings and free expression in the classroom. The kids liked it but I got flack from the faculty and administration which wanted the old routines.

    ashokbhatia said:
    March 17, 2015 at 16:51

    True. Somewhere within each one of us is a genius waiting to be discovered and unleashed on the world. Good bosses (or teachers) have this quality of being able to spot and ferret out the same.

      mirrorgirl responded:
      March 17, 2015 at 20:00

      I do think you are right. How is the education system with you? In norway it’s getting better and better, but we still have many things to work on!

        ashokbhatia said:
        March 18, 2015 at 03:32

        Much work to be done at this end, because the emphasis is on memorizing things, with real learning being a bye-product. System in Norway is more towards tapping the inner strength and talent of individuals.

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