Students setting their own expectations

John Hattie (via his research) ranks all of the influences on student achievement in terms of their importance or effect. Self-reported grading ranks number one.

Example for Self-reported grades: Before an exam, ask your class to write down what mark the student expects to achieve. Use this information to engage the student to try to perform even better.

Retrieved from


I teach courses that lead to government certification and a mandated final exam accounts for the course “mark” (pass is 70% or higher). The course by default lends itself towards promoting extrinsic motivation and I have noticed many students get hung up on what I call the “will that be on the final?” mentality/complex, to the point that it narrows their focus from all of the valuable exercise and problem solving opportunities that exist in my courses.

My 3250 peer, Catherine Farrow, posted this video and below notes, which gave me some insight into ways I can combat this “will that be on the final” student complex.

Benjamin Zander is a classical musical conductor and youth educator.

At the beginning of a course, Ben Zander would give each student an A for the music course. The only requirement was that within the first two weeks of the course, each student must write the teacher a letter, dated at the end of the course, and state “I got my A because….”. “and in this letter you are to tell, in as much details as you can, the story of what will have happened to you by next May that in line with this extraordinary grade.” (p. 27). “I tell them I want them to fall passionately in love with the person they are describing.” (p. 28).

  •  “Most would recognize at core that the main purpose of grades is to compare one student against another” (p. 25).
  • “This A is not an expectation to live up to, but a possibility to live into” (p. 26).
  •  “…it is only when we make mistakes in performance that we can really begin to notice what needs attention…I actively train my students that when they make a mistake, they are to lift their arms in the air, smile and say, ‘How fascinating!’” (p.31).
  • “The number 68 is invented and the A is invented, so we might as well choose to invent something that brightens our life and the lives of the people around us” (p. 33).
  • “…the instructor and the student…become a team for accomplishing the extraordinary” (p. 33).

I’m gaining a new appreciation for what Zander & Zander were trying to teach me!  (retrieved from 3250 discussion forum)


Zander, R.S. & Zander, B. (2000). The art of possibility. New York, NY: Penguin.

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