The Pygmalion Effect in Distance Learning: A Case Study at the Hellenic Open University

Maria Niari 1 , Evaggelia Manousou 2  and Antonis Lionarakis 2
  • 1 Hellenic Open University Greece
  • 2 Hellenic Open University, Greece


The Pygmalion Effect is the positive form of self-fulfilling prophecy and shows how teacher expectations influence student performance. According to this phenomenon, higher expectations can lead to an increase in performance. In this research qualitative methodology was adopted both in data collection, and in analysis, in order to investigate the impact of the Pygmalion Effect in distance adult learning. Observation was held in two Contact Sessions of the Postgraduate Module for Open and Distance Education (EKP65) of the School of Humanities at the Hellenic Open University (HOU). Also, 22 interviews were conducted, 6 with Tutors/Advisors and 16 with students of the same Postgraduate Module. The data analysis indicates that both Tutors/Advisors and postgraduate students shape form their expectations based on the behaviour as reflected in their first contact (telephone contact, face-to-face contact, written contact through the CV). Expectations originally are positive, though this could change due to mismatched following behaviour. Tutor’s expectations are expressed in verbal and non-verbal ways both in written and face-to-face communication. However, it is the non-verbal behaviour - and mainly the encouragement and the support towards the students - that influences their positive mood and attitude towards the learning object and distance learning itself. In conclusion, not to reject the educational trend according to which the adult learner has developed selfmotivation, we accept that Tutor’s expectations reflected in encouragement and support towards the student may influence the learning process.

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