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High expectations enable children to achieve the best possible outcomes in both their academic achievement and their wellbeing. In a study by Schiff & Tatar (2003) most children reported that significant teachers – those making a positive difference – expect them to succeed.High expectations from parents, professionals and peers are linked to self-esteem, children’s sense of agency and academic motivation. These factors in turn lead to educational success(Ahmed, et al, 2008;Patrick, Mantzicopoulos, Samarapungavan& French, 2008). These factors are discussed in detail below. Evidence shows that early childhood professionals’ expectations impact directly on children’s expectations of themselves, their academic aspirations and their self-perception (Rubie-Davis, 2006; Berzin, 2010). Motivation, self-concept, self-esteem and self-efficacy all interact in complex ways to determine a child’s academic success and resilience (Uszynska-Jarmoc, 2007).
Motivation is a key factor in children’s academic achievement (Archambault, Eccles & Vida, 2010;Uszynska-Jarmoc, 2007). There are many complex factors that can influence children’s motivation including their perceived ability, the value that they assign the task, parental expectations, teacher expectations, emotions, interest in the task, and task difficulty (Archambault, et al, 2010; Jalongo, 2007). Evidence states that there is a steady decline in children’s motivation from when they begin school; this can have enormous impacts on children’s self-esteem, academic achievement and perceived ability in specific tasks e.g. Maths or English (Patrick, et al, 2008; Archambault, et al, 2010). This also means that when children begin school with low motivation and self-perception their academic outcomes are likely to be poor, and to decrease as they move through school (Patrick et al, 2008).
Another important factor in educational achievement is self-esteem. Self-esteem refers to a child’s overall feeling of self-worth. It is the child’s assessment of their worth based on their experiences, their interactions with others: parents, early childhood professionals, peers and their environment. Self-concept is an element of self-esteem that refers to the child’s view of her or his own abilities. Children’s self-concepts are influenced by their own perceptions, feedback they receive from others, comparisons with peers and results from assessment (Archambault, et al, 2010). A child’s self-concept can be heavily influenced by what early childhood professionals deem important and the emphasis that they place on certain skills. For example if a teacher values written expression over verbal during English language activities, a child whose writing is poor may have a low self-concept in literacy even if their verbal skills are good).
Self-efficacy differs from self-esteem in that it refers to a child’s belief in their ability to take actions that will achieve their goals . It is the child’s belief about what they can do rather than their worth as a person, and it is often task or domain specific e.g. singing or science (Schweinle & Mims, 2009). When children believe that they are competent and can achieve results, they are more likely to persist with difficulty, spend more time and energy on the task and modify their approach to achieve better results (Patrick et al, 2008). In this way self-efficacy is cyclical; the more children believe in their ability to affect outcomes the more effort, time and energy they will expend. When children put in more time and effort their outcomes improve thus increasing their belief in their ability to effect change.
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