Jere Edward Brophy was born in Chicago in 1940. He received his BA from Loyola in 1962 and his PhD from the University of Chicago in 1967 in Human Development and Clinical Psychology. He took his first position at the University of Texas at Austin in 1968 in the Department of Educational Psychology. From there he moved in 1976 to Michigan State University where in 1990 he was named University Distinguished Professor of Teacher Education and Educational Psychology. His earlier training in clinical psychology and human development helped him to become a pioneer in understanding how teachers think about their students and the ways in which their beliefs affect their behavior. Steadily, and throughout his career, in his capacity to translate theory and research into concrete applications for the practitioner, Jere Brophy contributed to the way in which teachers are educated. His two main contributions are teacher expectation effects and student motivation in learning.
In the field of educational psychology, Brophy collaborated with Tom Good on teacher expectation effects and self-fulfilling prophecies (e.g., Brophy, 1983; Brophy & Good, 1970). At that time, data suggested that teachers' beliefs about students' academic potential could impact students' achievement in positive or negative ways. Brophy and Good provided some of the first studies to examine how these beliefs transformed teacher practice and ultimately student outcomes. From this body of research, Brophy and Good developed models to explain teacher expectation effects as well as specific strategies to help teachers become more aware of their achievement expectations and how they are communicated to students (Brophy & Good, 1986). These initial sets of studies spawned a generation of researchers interested in understanding how teacher expectations are formed, communicated, and received by students (see Brophy, 1998).
Brophy's classroom research on teacher expectation effects led to questions about what made teachers effective. In collaborations with Evertson and McCaslin and others, Brophy studied experienced teachers to understand the nature and impact of their instructional and classroom management practices (Brophy, 1996; Brophy & McCaslin, 1992; Brophy & Evertson, 1981). Studies looking at how expert teachers think about student behavioral and achievement problems and subsequently address them generated numerous publications offering teachers practical strategies for how to think about classroom management in general and problem behaviors specifically (e.g., Brophy, 1992, 2004).
The impact of Brophy's work on the field of educational psychology rests with his enduring concern for helping teachers with their daily practice. Nowhere is this more evident than in his work on student motivation. In his 2004 book Motivating Students to Learn, Brophy synthesizes the motivational literature while drawing upon his research and clinical background to provide one of the most practical resources for teachers in helping them think about how to motivate their students. Brophy's opus provides a fresh and practical perspective on learning and motivation that is critical of theorists who argue that learning should be made enjoyable. Instead, he argues that the field should reconstruct motivation to focus on what Brophy calls “motivation to learn” which he defines as, “a student tendency to find academic activities meaningful and worthwhile and to seek to get the intended learning benefits from them, whether or not they find the content interesting or the processes enjoyable” (Gaedke & Shaughnessy, 2003, p. 207).
Brophy's view of motivation stems from criticisms that traditional motivational researchers do not adequately account for the learning context (the real constraints and affordances in day-to-day classroom life) or the student perspective (e.g., Brophy, 2005). Brophy filled this void by providing an unparalleled body of work that is organized by the common goal of understanding where theory and research intersects with daily practice. The result was over 300 articles, chapters, and technical reports, and numerous authored, co-authored, and edited books that provide teachers with valuable resources for helping them to improve their instructional practice.
Brophy's work in the early 2000s focused on issues related to social studies curricula and assessment. In this vein, Brophy brought his concern for students and teachers in practical settings to analyses of curricular content and instructional method issues involved in teaching social studies for understanding, appreciation, and life application (e.g., Brophy & Alleman, 2007).
Brophy's impact on the field is extensive. His editorial efforts brought scholars together to comment on enduring issues related to teachers, teaching, and classroom life (e.g., Brophy 1992, 1998). His empirical work generated a rich literature for understanding the underlying processes of teaching and teacher-student relationships. And his texts have provided valuable tools for helping teachers to think about how to manage classrooms and cope with students presenting all sorts of motivational and achievement-related dispositions. One of his most enduring legacies is the single text that was used for 30 years in the field and as of 2008 was in its tenth edition. Co-authored with Tom Good of the University of Arizona, Looking in Classrooms is widely regarded as one of the most authoritative texts to synthesize research on classroom life.
Jere Brophy was the 2007 recipient of the Thorndike Award for career achievement in educational psychology, by Division 15 of the American Psychological Association. This honor underscores Jere Brophy's legacy as having made an indelible impact on the field of teaching and teacher education.
Brophy, J. E. (1983). Research on the self-fulfilling prophecy and teacher expectations. Journal of Educational Psychology, 75(5), 631–661.
Brophy, J. (1992) (Ed.). Planning and managing learning tasks and activities: Advances in Research on Teaching (Vol. 3). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.
Brophy, J. (1996). Teaching problem students. New York: Guilford.
Brophy, J. (1998) (Ed.). Advances in research on teaching: Expectations in the classroom. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.
Brophy, J. (2004). Motivating students to learn (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Brophy, J. (2005). Goal theorists should move on from performance goals. Educational Psychologist, 40(3), 167–176.
Brophy, J., & Alleman, J. (2007). Powerful social studies for elementary students (2nd ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Brophy, J., & Evertson, C. (1981). Student characteristics and teaching. New York: Longman.
Brophy, J., & Good, T. (1970). Teachers' communication of differential expectations for children's classroom performance: Some behavioral data. Journal of Educational Psychology, 61, 365–374.
Brophy, J., & Good, T. (1974). Teacher-student relationships: Causes and consequences. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
Brophy, J., & Good, T. (1986). Teacher behavior and student achievement. In M. Wittrock (Ed.), Handbook of research on teaching (3rd ed., pp. 328–375). New York: Macmillan.
Brophy, J., & McCaslin, M. (1992). Teachers' reports of how they perceive and cope with problem students. Elementary School Journal, 93(1), 3–68.
Good, T. L., & Brophy, J. E. (2008). Looking in Classrooms (10th ed.). New York: Pearson.
Gaedke, B., & Shaughnessy, M. F. (2003). An interview with Jere Brophy. Educational Psychology Review, 15(2), 199–211.