Anticipation is another key factor that affects the success of any learning intervention. Anticipation means having an expectation that I will have a positive learning experience and that I will be able to do something with that learning that will improve my performance and the performance of my organization. These positive attitudes are critical for learning.

The research is very clear about this: what we expect of others and what others expect of themselves shapes their behavior, positively and negatively. Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson demonstrated this in their classic Pygmalion-effect study of teacher expectations of students’ abilities. In their experiments, students whose teachers were told that they were smart performed better than students whose teachers were told that their students were not smart. Jane Elliott, in a classroom exercise, found that her students and then later, many adult workers, discriminated against each other simply based on whether they were separated into the brown-eyed, privileged group or the blue-eyed, disparaged group. This showed that expectations shape discriminatory behavior. Rhona Weinstein, in her book, Reaching Higher: The Power of Expectations in Schooling, describes how expectations of teachers, as well as attitudes communicated by the school system, have a strong effect on student learning.

We want employees participating in learning interventions anticipating that they will learn and that they will be able to apply this learning effectively in their work. And we want their supervisors and senior management to communicate to them the expectation that they will learn from the intervention and that this learning will have a positive impact on strategic priorities of the organization. When learners and their supervisors anticipate success, it is more likely that success will be the outcome.

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