Monday, 11 March 2019

Creating a Culture of High Expectation

Children respond to high expectation.  I see this in my work as a teacher and as a coach.  When kids know that you believe they are capable of learning, improving, and achieving they are much more likely to reach a higher level of performance.  We have likely seen this phenomenon in action many times, and if not I encourage you to do your own action research project to see what the effects of high expectation have on learners.

John Hattie is an Australian education researcher.  In 2009 he published a book called Visible Learning.  This book was a summary of a meta-analysis study of over 850 meta-analysis studies - in essence the findings summarized key influences on learning from over 50,000 education studies.  As part of this research, 'teacher expectation' was found to be within the significant range of greater than d=.4.  What this tells us is that by having high expectations of learners, that they will grow at a faster than normal rate than by utilizing an influence on learning that has a d of less than .4. 

What do high expectations look like when coaching adolescent skiers?  High expectations look like:
- holding all children in high regard
- messaging to children that they are capable of improving, being successful, and reaching their goals
- creating a culture where success is defined as continuous improvement
- championing all children
- avoiding overemphasizing or celebrating the current successful skier
- a focusing on effort over results

Children notice and know who the athletes are that the coach is championing disproportionately ahead of others.  They know who the coach favourite is.  They know who the coach believes is the most talented.  Children are aware of the subtle ways that this is done - who's skis are prepared first and ready for testing, who is given splits on the race course, who is highlighted in the coach blog or club website. 

At a certain point everyone moves on from competitive cross country skiing.  Many of the children who choose other sports over cross country skiing do so because stops being fun, I believe especially when the coach one skier over all others.  Is it possible to create a culture where the focus is on effort and improvement and less on who is on the top of the podium.

In a sport like ice hockey in Canada, it doesn't matter what the coach says or does to create a positive team culture - there are simply so many children that if the culture doesn't fit for one child, there are always another 10 to fill that empty spot on the roster.  I think we do better than this and think about what kind of culture we create.  Every kid is important.  And there isn't any coach that can predict adult performance of a 12 year old. 

Enjoy the rest of winter

Roy Strum
Calgary, AB

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