2.3 Managing expectations & Being consistent

On this page

  1. Importance of managing expectations
    1.1 Managing expectation
    1.2 Not managing expectations
    1.3 Start managing expectations
  2. Folder for managing expectations
  3. Working independently
  4. Monitoring students
  5. Compliments
    5.1 Pitfall of compliments
  6. Summary
  7. Credits

With ‘Managing expectations’, teachers make clear what students have to do at the start of a new activity. When preparing a lesson, they have an image in mind of what the students will do in the lesson; they expect something from the students. With managing expectations, they make their expectations clear to students efficiently and effectively. For example, the students then know what items they need to grab and what they are going to do with them. This way, everyone gets to work in a calm and focused way.

By managing expectations, I provide clarity and help my students starting quickly.

Current approach:

Do I tell my students clearly what I expect of them? What information do I show on the board, which do I give verbally?

Future approach:

In the future, how do I manage expectations?

Introduction video


Primary education

There are all kinds of useful tools on IWBs that you can use for your managing expectations:

  1. If you want the group to respond more quickly, direct it as follows: “When I sit down later, I expect you to have everything in order” Meanwhile, you also prepare something yourself so it does not look like you are waiting. With that, you control the timing. Two things can happen now. The students quickly get everything in order or you find that things are not moving fast enough. In the latter case, you sit down, look around and then walk up to a student. Then, if the student doesn’t fix everything right away, you give a Tip.
  2. On the Prowise IWB there are sounds of different musical instruments. You can use these to give a signal without having to say anything. For example: if the drum kit sounds, the teacher wants to start the lesson. In the 10 seconds that this sound clip lasts, stop talking, look at the board and wait quietly until the sound clip has ended.
  3. With each other, choose a song that you turn on while cleaning up. During the minutes this song lasts, students finish their work and begin cleaning up. Clearly agree in advance what is expected of them when this song ends. For example: your table is empty, you are in your seat and you are quiet. If necessary, type additional directions on the board.
  4. When students come in in the morning or after break, it is helpful to get the students working right away. Then you have less chance of turmoil and students wandering around the classroom. For example: take your tablet and make a sum …. Grab your reading book and find a place to (chill) read etc.

Secondary education

  1. Grab the items that belong to the topic you chose in the previous lesson and spend the first five minutes quietly working on your own. If you have a question, write it down and put it next to you.
  2. Another more elaborate form of managing expectations: Three magnets to hang announcements: 1) Agenda, 2) Do immediately, 3) Learning objectives.
  3. If a particular change takes a long time with a class ask the group, “How quickly do you think you can make this change?” The class then probably makes a very sharp estimate. Then ask your students to go back to the previous situation and then use a timer to test whether the class’s estimate is correct in practice. The game element usually makes students maximize their commitment to this race.


‘Managing expectations’ is one of the three modules of the perspective ‘Establishing fairness’ of Friendly and Fair Teaching (FFT).

Figure 27: Establishing fairness (overview)

With managing expectations, you take the initiative regarding the events that will soon take place in class. With this module, you give your students directions when you change your approaches to teaching and with that you create order.

Like the start of a lesson, transitions from frontal teaching to independent work are a potential source of unrest. That is why it is important to communicate your expectations well and efficiently at those moments. Concrete behavior is suggested with the expectation management folder.

VOH recommends always formulating these instructions concretely and positively. Positive’ means that you only formulate which behavior/actions/actions you do expect to see. (‘Negative’ would imply that you formulate what behavior you do not wish to see, but that is exactly what you do not do.)

In addition to general directions for how everyone should go about their work, it is often necessary to explain some practical matters. You give those directions when it is completely silent (see video below. There a teacher asks for attention with a silence gesture).

1. Importance of managing expectations

1.1 Managing expectations

As your students enter the classroom, they see what items they are supposed to grab and what they are supposed to do. You give compliments to students who follow the instruction. With students who do not follow the instructions, you first point to the board (that’s where they see what items they are supposed to take) and then point to the student’s bag with a questioning look. If you do this every lesson, everyone gets used to this and everyone gets to work quickly. When you switch your approach to teaching (whole class teaching to working independently or vice-verca), you use the ‘Managing expectations folder’.

1.2 Not managing expectations

What happens if you don’t manage expectations? When students enter the room and then see no instruction, some already grab the items they suspect they will need and others talk (loudly) to each other. To get their attention, you raise your voice and it takes quite some time for the students to be quiet. Only then can you ask students to grab what is necessary for the lesson.

1.3 Starting with expectation management

You can start managing expectations prior to any part of the lesson at any time.

2. Managing expectations folder

You can show your expectations to your students either via an IWB or via a separate folder. The advantage of a folder is that the IWB is free for other information. With this folder you can start the lesson immediately and there is no need to wait for the IWB to start up, which can happen, for example, during a room change. If the IWB is not yet started, you cannot project your expectations through the folder. In order to be able to start immediately you use a folder with pictures on which your expectations are listed. From that folder you choose the matching image. Before you let the students in, put the folder in plain view, then turn on the computer; only then do you let the students in and greet them. This way, despite the change of room, you manage your expectations and have time to chat with your students at the beginning of the lesson. Meanwhile, the computer starts up.

Below are two examples that give a very general indication of what is expected of students during frontal teaching or when working independently. If it appears that something is not going well in a particular group, you can put a new picture in the folder for the next lesson with added information. Before you start with an approach to teaching, you thereby indicate more precisely how you want an activity to start.

2.1 Images managing expectations folder

Customize the images below yourself using this PowerPoint.

Whole class teaching

Figure 17: Whole class teaching

This image can be used both for giving explanation about a subject and for  explaining how you want your students to start working.

Working independently

Figure 30: Working independently

3. Working independently

When your students are working independently:

  1. ask students who are work exclusively with their laptops or iPads to sit in a place where it is possible for you to see their screens at a glance. If you don’t, these students can tuck away in a corner and play undisturbed a computer game. That is not what you expect from them.
  2. make your expectations clear. Instruction if all students work on the same assignment is different from the instruction if all students work on a self-selected assignments:

Instruction for students when working on the same assignment

Make information available about the following six points. Ask your students to first check this information:

  1. Task content
  2. Approach
  3. Resources
  4. Duration
  5. Method of review
  6. Follow-up task for if you finish earlier.


This enumeration is also known as the WHHTUK model. See further e.g. Ebbens (2005)

The idea behind giving this complete instruction is that you prevent students from asking a lot of questions when working independently, causing stagnation, resulting in agitation. If you give all this information verbally, then students will not remember this information and the explanation will miss its purpose. You can project a summary of this full instruction on the board, or make this full instruction available on the internet along with the assignment. The six points of full instruction are available at all time for the students. If you project the instruction on the board, a brief explanation will suffice. The students then see at a glance – and continue to see – what is intended. As students become more familiar with full instruction when working independently, the instructions on the board will be already familiar and you can phrase them more concisely.

Instruction for students working on a self-selected assignment

Instruction for students:

Decide for yourself how  you get started.

  1. When you start working with the basic material and you think you have mastered it, check that first with the app. You then show me the result. You demonstrate to me that you can pass the level with the app.
  2. If you start working on a topic of your own choosing and you want to present it to me, first fill out a yellow or green form. With the form you come to me and then you show me your presentation.

Success. I expect you to act responsibly.

4. Monitoring students

Managing expectations is effective when you ensure that students follow your instruction. If they do, you give a compliment (thumbs up). If they don’t, you ask short control questions or reinforce positive behaviour.

5. Compliments

Compliments can be given to an individual student as well as to the whole class. Students who do a good job in line with your managing expectations you give a thumbs up. Students then know they have the right attitude and appreciate your compliment. Your appreciation for their efforts makes them eager to work for you.

Translate a reward in the future into a reward in the now. That is the recipe for a better world… Reward works when it is individual, direct, fair and with control over one’s own destiny.” Lame (2016)

If a student performs above average, give them the opportunity to help other students who are struggling in that particular section.

5.1 Pitfall of compliments

  1. Complimenting a student has risks, both for gifted students and for students who have to work hard for a good result. These risks have been studied extensively in recent years and have become more widely known. Briefly, it boils down to the following. If a child achieves a good result with little effort (often referred to as a “gifted child”) and receives compliments for doing so, the child may become insecure because he or she will feel that he or she must always achieve a good result to be acceptable. On the other hand, a child who has to put in a lot of effort to get a good result gets compliments less often. That child, too, may therefore get the feeling of not being acceptable. Therefore, in general, it is better to pay attention to effort and give compliments for it.
  2. Give compliments only when the result is really good. If you give compliments too quickly, it is counterproductive. Unconscious you then show that half work is also good. Compliments for mediocre performance undermine the need to work hard and to persevere. Therefore have students assess themselves with an app. An app is nonpartisan and measures actual results. An app just tells if a the result is good.

6. Summary

With ‘Managing expectations’, you specify what actions you expect students to take for each approach to teaching. Students who know what to do will get to work faster.

7. Credits

Eveline Busch – Bazalt During the meeting between the Basalt and Friendly and Fair Teaching organizations, we agreed that Eveline Busch would observe a course. During that course, she mentioned the term “Managing expectations”,  Since then it is a module that belongs to the perspective ‘Establishing fairness’.