Great Expectations

For more than 30 years, Robert Rosenthal has conducted experiments on the power of expectations. One of his most fascinating studies took place at Oak School, which is a public elementary school of around 650 students. At the beginning of one school year, all of the students were pre-tested with a standard IQ test. The teachers were told that the test could predict which students would experience “spurts” of intellectual development over the next year.

Each of the 18 teachers at the school was then given the names of the children in his or her class who would show “dramatic intellectual growth.” Again, these predictions were allegedly made on the basis of these special students’ scores on the IQ test.

In reality, these “special children” had actually been chosen randomly.

The difference between the “special children” and the “ordinary children” was only in the minds and in the expectations of the teachers. All of the Oak School students were then retested with the same I.Q. test at the end of the year.

When the I.Q. scores of the “special students” and the “ordinary students” were calculated, both groups showed an improvement in total I.Q. But when the two groups were compared, 47% of the “special students” had gained 20 or more total I.Q. points, while only 19% of the “ordinary student” gained 20 or more total I.Q. points. In other words, the “special” students were 2.5 times more likely to experience a performance spurt than their ordinary counterparts. All because the teachers expected them to!

Expectations hold tremendous power. They can influence those around us. So much so, that what we expect of each other has the power to take us places we couldn’t go just by ourselves.

Here’s why I think expectations are powerful—they influence our motivation, our actions, and our ability to persevere. Think of those special students at Oak School. Imagine how their teachers likely encouraged them, coached them, and loved them because they believed something special was buried deep inside of them.

The teachers pulled their special students into a reality beyond where they could go by themselves.

Jesus does the same for us. He gave us a challenging set of expectations, to make disciples, and he even said in John 14:12 that he expects great things from those who follow him.

I think all of us want to get to Heaven’s gates and hear those ultimate words, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” So may you be encouraged and inspired by the great expectations God has for you. Strive for greatness as you make disciples for the glory of God!

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