Research corner

`Teacher behavior as a mediator of the relationship between teacher judgment and students' motivation and emotion' by Urhahne, D

Teaching and Teacher Education, 45:73-82, January 2015 (Elsevier)

Teachers, as a breed, are pretty good at estimating. Days, months and years of inputting data have finely honed their skills, allowing them to pinpoint exactly what they feel each of their students is realistically capable of achieving.

However, teachers are human and don't always get things right. But how does this affect students who have been overestimated and, equally, those who have been underestimated?

Detlef Urhahne, of Germany's University of Passau, looked at students learning English as a second language in a number of different German schools. He found that those whose capacities had been underestimated by their teachers were considered to have less motivation and a poorer emotional state than their overestimated peers. In turn, the underestimated students reported difficulty in communicating with their teachers and thus maintaining good teacher-student relationships.

Thus, Urhahne says, students adapt to inaccurate teacher judgements.

However, perhaps more worryingly, he found that underestimated students in this study actually had higher capabilities for learning English than their overestimated peers.

Teachers, Urhahne claims, do not have the same training in accurately pinpointing students' motivation and emotion as they do in determining grade estimates.

This is at odds with the "enormous implication" that teachers' judgements have for their students' well-being.

The solution? Urhahne says that teachers "should be emotionally supportive for the whole class, still providing a feeling of closeness and safety for even those students who are not among their favourites".

Sarah Cunnane

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