On October 12th, I attended the mini-conference on the Pedagogy of High Expectations at the Rotterdam University of Applied Science (RUAS). This approach emphasizes teachers’ belief in the potential of every student to succeed and encourages them to pursue challenging goals. The topic is included in RUAS’s new strategic agenda. The title initially caused some confusion because the idea of high expectations in education seems self-evident to me. Why would a teacher not have high expectations?
During the conference, a lecturer gave a presentation highlighting the urgency of the Pedagogy of High Expectations. I had some thoughts about that introduction, because most attendees in the room were part of the teacher training programme, or educational support staff. I think most of them are quite familiar with the urgency and already working very hard on improvements. Nevertheless is was good to gain specific insights in what this pedagogy entails. The presentation covered various topics, including effective feedback, emotion, mode (modus),strategy and asking activating questions, and compliments.
The concepts of Didactics of High Expectations has transformed into a foundation (www.didactischcoachen.nl) that promotes and disseminates these ideas, including publications and training also within RUAS. I think that such a centralized approach has the advantage of creating a shared vision of what the expectations are for good education. On the other hand, strong standardization can lead to a lack of room for individuality and diversity in the approach to students. One risk, for example, is that strategies may be poorly executed. One risk for example is that the emphasis on self-regulation is somehow translated into less contact time with teachers. It seems to me that there is always a need for customization, due to the existence of a unique culture within each program (opleiding).
Additionally, the emphasis on giving compliments to students was something I reflected upon. I understand that trust and a pleasant learning environment are requirements for good education. However, I wonder what happens when giving compliments becomes standardized in education (or heavily promoted). What is the effect when academic performance is consistently linked to compliments? I reflect upon the long-term impact of this, especially when students enter their professional careers. And how does this approach connect with students with different cultural background?
To me it seems important to strike a balance between standardization and flexibility in education. I believe we should recognize the needs and diversity of students and allowing room for creativity and adaptation in the educational process. I enjoyed the event and the workshops I attended. It’s reassuring to see how engaged our colleagues within RUAS are in researching education and it gave me plenty food for thoughts to continue with at WdKA.