A grounded theory about how teachers communicated high expectations to their secondary school students

Olivia Johnston, Helen Wildy, Jennifer Shand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


High teachers’ expectations are associated with improved student academic achievement. However, no research explains how students experience their teachers’ expectations, from their points of view. A new theory was developed to achieve the study’s aim of accounting for how high expectations were experienced by 25 students in Western Australia. The findings offer educators student-focused perspectives of how to convey high teacher expectations that lead to improved student academic outcomes. Straussian grounded theory (Strauss, 1990) methods were used to generate substantive theory together with the Year 10 students in three Western Australian public schools, through data including more than 100 classroom observations and 175 interviews. The theory generated from the data provides a lens for understanding how teachers communicated high expectations through confidence, approach, relationship, and environment. Students identified practices that communicated high expectations that add to existing knowledge in the literature. The students recognised high expectations, then described how they responded by becoming motivated, engaged in learning, and acting to improve their academic outcomes. Teachers might draw on the substantive theory to inform classroom interactions that communicate high expectations in their own teaching contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-235
Number of pages25
JournalEuropean Journal of Psychology of Education
Issue number1
Early online date7 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024


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