Being a Warm Demander

October 3, 2019 By admin

How does a teacher communicate caring and expectational beliefs in a way that most positively impacts student achievement? Judith Kleinfeld coined the term warm demanders when describing teachers who most successfully supported student achievement. Creating four quadrants with a vertical scale running from low to high expectations and a horizontal scale running from low to high relationships, she identified four categories.



Sophisticates– (Low expectations and low relationships) were often aloof and undemanding. I describe this as “I delivered the information. Either you learn it or you don’t.”

Traditionalist– (High expectations and low relationships) — “teachers who set high expectations for students but view developing personal relationships with them as outside their professional purview, offering little academic or emotional support to help students meet expectations.”

Sentimentalist– (Low expectations and high relationships)- warm but undemanding. I often observe these teachers making tremendous investments in students’ lives (sometimes financially). I describe that they have sympathy rather than empathy. They feel badly for the students’ situations and difficulties and it causes the teacher to lose focus on the students’ academic potential.

Warm Demanders-(High expectations and high relationships) — combined “high personal warmth with high active demandingness”. “In the classrooms of these teachers, students actively participated in discussions and were willing to work hard for their teachers, with whom they had developed a positive, mutually respectful rapport.”

Warm demanders includes:

  • Explicit focus on building rapport and trust. Expresses warmth through non-verbal ways like smiling, touch, warm or firm tone of voice, and good natured teasing.
  • Shows personal regard for students by inquiring about important people in their lives.
  • Earns the right to demand engagement and effort.
  • Very competent with the technical side of instruction
  • Holds high standards and offers emotional support and instructional scaffolding to dependent learners for reaching the standards.
  • Encourages productive struggle
  • Viewed by students as caring because of personal regard and “tough love” stance.

The exploration of “warm demanding” is a worthwhile professional learning and coaching focus for summer goals setting, fall planning sessions, opening week PLC strategizing, and coaching observations for teachers’ “missed opportunities.”

Warm demanders approach their students with unconditional positive regard, knowing students and their cultures well, and insisting that students perform to a high standard. Students have told researchers that they want teachers who communicate that they are “important enough to be pushed, disciplined, taught, and respected”.

(Wilson & Corbett, 2001, p. 88)

Such is the stance of the warm demander.

Elizabeth Bondy and Dorene D. Ross (Educational Leadership)


This site  from the Department of Applied Psychology at NYU can be used to initiate teacher dialogue for raised consciousness. Here are a few of the statements found in the research summary:

  • Students who have positive relationships with their teachers use them as a secure base from which they can explore the classroom and school setting both academically and socially, to take on academic challenges and work on social-emotional development
  • Studies show that early teacher-student relationships affect early academic and social outcomes as well as future academic outcomes
  • Positive relationships with teachers are important in supporting higher levels of self-esteem, higher academic self-efficacy, and more confidence in future employment outcomes.
  • Researchers who have investigated teacher-student relationships for older students have found that positive teacher-student relationships are associated with positive academic and social outcomes for high school students
  • Studies of middle and high school students have shown that students shape their own educational expectations from their perceptions of their teachers’ expectations
  • Due to the influence of expectations on motivation, expectations can be an important factor on a students’ academic achievement.

Consider having teachers work in groups of four. One person reads a paragraph from the report out loud to their group, the next person summaries/paraphrases the most important points, the next individual shares personal experiences that reinforce or question one of the key points, the last person identifies an element he/she wishes to have as a conscious focus in the coming weeks. Those conscious focus points make great agendas for peer or instructional coaching. (Participants rotate roles and select another paragraph.)

I know that as a classroom teacher, graduate instructor, and coach, I spent time in each of Kleinfeld’s quadrants….. usually unconsciously.  Reflection and coaching provided opportunities for me to make conscious decisions about my teaching actions which often increased student success and raised my expectations of my students and myself.