Most people have expectations of others.  These expectations may be associated with expected behaviour and – in relation to students – of academic performance. Even an apparent absence of expectations may be conveyed and/or interpreted as disinterest. There are really two issues about expectations to consider: firstly, whether these expectations are realistic, considering current circumstances and indicators, and secondly, how these expectations are communicated.

Expectations about oneself or another may be unrealistic.  Sometimes expectations are not consistent with capability nor aligned with patterns of behaviour. It may be assumed by some students that parental expectations are too high; however students’ expectations of themselves may be too low, considering their intellectual and academic capability.  This misalignment of expectations and capability – in either direction – could be explored with independent professionals in order to obtain an objective and more realistic opinion.

Patterns of behaviour, especially related to study and academic performance, can significantly impact both expectations and outcomes.  Students who have been used to achieving well with little or no effort in the past may not actualise heightened expectations unless they commit to the effort required to incrementally work towards achieving their expectations of academic tasks. Archilochus, a Greek scholar who lived in the Archaic period, stated, “We do not rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”  Effective preparation and training is essential if students are to realise expectations.

It makes a difference whether these expectations are conveyed overtly, through clear communication, or held covertly, without open discussion.  In the latter circumstance, there can easily be a misalignment of the expectations held by one and the capacity or willingness of the other to meet these expectations.  Erroneous assumptions might be made about the other’s expectations. Without clear communication and discussion, misalignment of expectations and considerable confusion will easily occur. Hope and a positive outlook are important, but it is critical that expectations and associated assumptions are made explicit through open discussion and that preparation is undertaken to ensure the optimum outcome.

The old saying: “Most people aim at nothing and achieve it with amazing accuracy” highlights that without identification and commitment to specific goals, nothing will be achieved. By explicitly stating one’s goals to others, individuals are communicating expectations of themselves and inviting discussion about their goals.  Ensuing discussion might include specific actions that need to be undertaken in order to prepare for and work incrementally towards achieving these goals and expectations. Every circumstance cannot be anticipated; however by clearly communicating and clarifying expectations, discussing whether these expectations are currently realistic and determining what must be done in order to optimise the likelihood of achieving these expectations, individuals will increase achievement outcomes in the future.

© Michele Juratowitch