Forms of Predetermination

Low expectations for student performance have a crippling affect on schools that serve students from underrepresented achievement groups. The work of researchers like Jerry Brophe, Larry Lezzotte, and Robert Green has provided scientific evidence of the effect of adult expectations of student performance. In my research I have found three powerful forms of “predetermination” that cripple the educational potential of children: Perceptual, Intrinsic, and Institutional.

Perceptual predeterminations are preconceived notions about the actual or potential achievement of children based upon stereotypes that are by-products of the socialization of the adult educator. This form of predetermination varies from individual-to-individual based upon their socialization. Unless a person grew up in a vacuum, this form of predetermination is hard to avoid. This obstacle can be pretty easily addressed by an instructional leader who provides his/her educators with evidence contrary to the predetermined obstacle.

Intrinsic predetermination is the self-defeating attitude that students transport to school from their homes and community. If a student is not surrounded by academic role models and evidence that performance in school leads to success in life, they are very likely to conclude that school is not important and people who look or live like them are not expected to do well. This form of predetermination can be countered by providing disenfranchised students with real experiences that send messages contrary to those outside of school.

Institutional predetermination is locked into the very structure of traditional schools and guarantees a normal distribution of achievement. Examples include rigid master schedules that predetermine the number of students who take rigorous, regular, and remedial courses before the students ever step one foot onto the school campus and summer school programs developed before grades post in anticipation of a certain amount of student failure. This form is more difficult to combat due to the fact that most people do not even recognize its existence. Once recognized, the fix is pretty simple, make your system fit the needs of the students instead of making the student fit the need of the system.


  1. Dr. Muhammad:
    I attended the NUCC conference in Logan Utah last week and I’m interested in more information about your remediation plans. Do you have any materials that you share with schools to help them get started? I also heard you say that you had a similiar pyramid for working with discipline issues. I would like to have references and more information. I work in a Middle School, 8th and 9th in Brigham City, Utah.
    Jeanne Andersen
    Assistant Principal
    Box Elder Middle School
    Brigham City Utah

  2. Dr. Muhammad,
    I am extremely interested in the research supporting predeterminsim. My assumption is that it is based upon the Hawthorne study, Pygmalion effect, and self-fulfilling prophecy. Is this correct? By the way, you certainly made a powerful impact in Gwinnett County at our Summer Leadership Conference. As a former Detroiter (and resident of Southfield), I enjoyed a particular sense of pride by your presentation.

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