Drawing upon a generation of research on self-fulfilling prophecies in education, Reaching Higher argues that our expectations of children are often too low. Weinstein shows that children typed early as "not very smart" can go on to accomplish far more than is expected of them by an educational system with too narrow a definition of ability. She faults the system, pointing out that teachers themselves are harnessed by policies that do not enable them to reach higher for all ...
Drawing upon a generation of research on self-fulfilling prophecies in education, Reaching Higher argues that our expectations of children are often too low. Weinstein shows that children typed early as "not very smart" can go on to accomplish far more than is expected of them by an educational system with too narrow a definition of ability. She faults the system, pointing out that teachers themselves are harnessed by policies that do not enable them to reach higher for all children.
The notion of a "self-fulfilling prophecy" is common parlance in education. Low expectations of students and corresponding differential treatment predictably produce low achievement or failure. Previous efforts (the "positive self-esteem" movement) and current attempts (high standards and testing) have both failed; Weinstein says it's because neither is ecological in scope. A psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Weinstein draws upon decades of research as well as her own extensive fieldwork in schools to make a persuasive case for more serious considerations of "expectancy theory" and its application to education. Her premise: classrooms becoming places where high achievement is expected for all isn't just a political platform but a reality. She reasonably states, however, that to effect such a transformation "would require a radical shift in the achievement culture of schools" and a rethinking of school policies, practices and classroom climate, not to mention existing theories of motivation, ability, disability, beliefs about how children learn and, importantly, the pervasive belief in the bell curve. Solving the problems of underachievement will necessarily involve parents, teachers, students, researchers, administrators and the wider society in changing our paradigm of achievement. Thinking ecologically about this issue is a tall order, but Weinstein addresses in painstaking detail just what it entails. This is an important book for everyone who believes in the historic promise of equal educational opportunity, and in the possibility that all children can reach their full learning potential. (Dec.)
Based on her own three decades of research into the self-fulfilling power of expectations, Weinstein (psychology, Berkeley) presents an analysis of our schools and outlines a practical approach to reform driven by both the head and the heart. She examines how expectations placed on children by their parents, teachers, and the students themselves are formed by and reinforce social constructs, and she demonstrates that the key to change rests in a shift in perceptual focus from the aggregate to the specific. Although a category of children may be shown by testing to fall into a certain stratum of expected competencies, each individual child does not. Undaunted by the complexities involved, Weinstein offers a systems approach that demands changes at every point of interaction: students, teachers, parents, administrators, teacher training faculty, and researchers. Implemented systemically across our nation's schools, her approach would move the next generation's educational experience into a new level of excellence, lift multiple barriers to learning, and thus change many of our existing, limiting social norms. Recommended for all academic and public libraries.-Jean Caspers, Linfield Coll. Lib., McMinnville, OR