Login
Copyright

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy in Education: Definition, Theory & Examples

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Cognitive Perspective of Learning & Information Processing

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:00 What Is a…
  • 0:40 Self-Fulfilling…
  • 1:30 Teachers & Students
  • 3:55 Lesson Summary
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Login or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jade Mazarin

Jade is a board certified Christian counselor with an MA in Marriage and Family Therapy, and a certification in Natural Health. She is also a freelance writer on emotional health and spirituality.

In this lesson, we will explore what a self-fulfilling prophecy is and how it affects our mindset, behavior, and those around us. We will examine how teachers create self-fulfilling prophecies with their students and how to move past them.

What Is a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy?

Have you ever been asked to do a task, such as maybe you're starting a new job, and you believed before you started that you wouldn't be good at it? Maybe you thought to yourself, 'I'm not going to be able to do this,' only to try it out and realize that your fears were correct? This is known as a self-fulfilling prophecy. A sociologist named Robert K. Merton created this term in 1948 to describe a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior, which makes the originally false conception come true. In other words, the prediction we make at the start of something affects our behavior in such a way that we make the prediction happen.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy in Action

Going back to our earlier example, let's say you're starting a new job as a receptionist but have never done that type of work before. You may have a strong belief that you won't be able to handle the responsibilities. As you begin your job, you can't think clearly, you keep saying negative things to yourself about the work you're doing, and you're in a lousy mood, so the customers dislike you.

Three weeks later, you lose the job. In this case, your negative expectations at the beginning of the job have affected your behavior to the point that your prediction comes true. Once that happens, we believe that our prediction must have been correct, which only encourages our confidence in future predictions, thereby perpetuating a reign of error, as Merton put it. Self-fulfilling prophecies are not limited to affecting only ourselves; we can also make predictions about other people that create the same type of results.

Teachers and Students

Teachers have a profound role in guiding their students into success or failure, and this is partly affected by their own mindset about the student. When a teacher sees a student as an achiever, the teacher might use more complimentary language, offer after-school help, call on him or her more often, or even smile more. All this positive feedback is bound to help the student flourish. If, however, the teacher does not believe this student will be a success, the teacher might discipline the student more frequently, prevent the student from attempting a task, or approach the student with suspicion after an absence. These negative responses can easily promote underachievement.

There are any number of behaviors - direct and indirect - that can come from a particular mindset about a student and affect their success. In 1968, psychologist Robert Rosenthal and elementary school principal Lenore Jacobson examined the topic of self-fulfilling prophecy between teachers and students in the Oak School Experiment. Here, they gave the students an IQ test and told the teacher that a specific group of students (20% of the class chosen at random) were 'special' or 'gifted.' At the end of an 8-month period, they tested the students again and saw that the group they had identified as 'special' had a significant increase in IQ over those that were not labeled so, due to the mindset and actions of the teacher towards them.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register for a free trial

Are you a student or a teacher?
I am a teacher
What is your educational goal?
 Back

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 10 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 95 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,000 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account
Support