What is the Galatea Effect? Transform Your Students into Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

What is the Galatea Effect? Transform Your Students into Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

One hurdle most online teachers face (and offline teachers as well) is keeping students focused. It can be difficult for students to grasp how important education is and keeping them motivated while learning for long stretches can sometimes feel like an impossible task.

This is where the Galatea effect comes in. Don’t worry, Galatea is more than just a fancy-sounding Greek word that people use to sound intelligent; it can transform the way your students learn. Along with its sister theory, the Pygmalion effect (another fancy-sounding word!) it can be used to encourage them to pay attention during lessons, making your job as a teacher a whole lot easier.

But enough dancing around it – what does ‘Galatea’ mean?

The Origins of Galatea

Galatea is the name of a character from Greek mythology. Her story is a fascinating one, but we’ll try to keep it brief. In the myth, Galatea is a statue sculpted by the ancient king of Cyprus, Pygmalion. After sculpting her, Pygmalion quickly fell in love with Galatea and prayed to the gods, asking them to bring her to life. The goddess Aphrodite answered his prayer and brought her to life and the two of them were married.

Like just about every story from Greek mythology, it’s pretty strange. As noted by the Harvard Business Review, the names Pygmalion and Galatea were revived in 1969 for an article written by J. Sterling Livingston relating to how children learn in the classroom. This led to him coining the terms Galatea effect and Pygmalion effect. Both ideas have been revolutionary in the classroom and for businesses around the world.

What is the Galatea effect?

The Galatea effect revolves around the idea of self-fulfilling prophecies. It’s encouraging students to believe in themselves and then succeeding because of it.

It’s not hard to see why this strategy can be incredibly effective and it’s an idea that pretty much everyone can relate to. At one time or another, you’ve probably been in a position where believing in yourself has helped you achieve something difficult. If you don’t think you’re capable of reaching a particular goal, obviously that’s going to make you less motivated to reach it, right?

The Galatea effect can make your job as a teacher easier, because, essentially, you are placing more responsibility on the student. By encouraging a student to believe in themselves, you’re motivating them to take their learning into their own hands, taking some of the pressure off of you.

The Pygmalion effect

‘So, what is the Pygmalion effect then?’ I hear you ask.

If we return to the original story of Pygmalion and Galatea, then it should become clear. The Galatea effect is a self-fulfilling prophecy – the statue itself believing it can come to life – and so the Pygmalion effect revolves around the sculptor believing the statue can come to life. And if the student is the statue, then the teacher must be the sculptor!

The Pygmalion effect is the idea that a student succeeds because their teacher believes in them. By showing your students that you believe they can hit their goals, they’ll be more motivated to achieve them.

Applying the Galatea effect and the Pygmalion effect in the classroom study

Despite them being two different ideas, there is a lot of overlap between the Galatea effect and the Pygmalion effect. Often, by implementing one you’ll be implementing the other as well! For example, if you show a student that you believe in them then it’s likely that they’ll believe in themselves more as well.

Because of this, most of the strategies for these effects are essentially the same.

There are several ways you can implement them into your teaching approach. Here are some suggestions:

  • Celebrate small successes: Whenever a student hits a target, no matter how small, celebrate it. This will help them realise that they’re making progress and with each target that they hit, they’ll believe in themselves a little bit more.
  • Set realistic goals: It’s better to set smaller, regular goals than big ones. A single huge goal can seem incredibly intimidating and impossible to reach, but if you break it down into several smaller ones it’ll seem a lot more manageable.
  • Focus on positives: Try to avoid being too outright negative when pointing out mistakes. Instead, try to guide them towards the solution. If you dwell too much on the negatives then it is likely to damage their belief in themselves.
  • Don’t overestimate their ability: Move through lessons slowly, increasing their difficulty in small increments. This will ensure they’re only given work that they’re able to complete, minimising failures and increasing successes.

Implementing these strategies can have a huge effect on your students’ progress. And really, they are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how you can make use of these two powerful concepts.

The wider use of these ideas

It is also worth noting that, while these concepts were originally coined in a paper that focused on schoolchildren, they have gone on to be used in a variety of environments. Most notably, they have become the focus of plenty of business articles aimed at managers and CEOs, acting as a way to encourage employees to work harder.

In truth, the Galatea effect can be applied to your own role as an online teacher with First Future as well. At its core, the concept focuses on the idea of believing in yourself and how it can help you hit your goals in life. So why not use it? Become a self-fulfilling prophecy yourself and achieve what you want out of life.

If you’re ready to hit your goals as an online teacher and a digital nomad, then you couldn’t be in a better place. DigiNo is one of the most comprehensive online resources available when it comes to online teaching, featuring a wealth of articles and guides to help you on your way. 

So, get started using the Galatea effect in your online teaching career right now…

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