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Group-based educational disparities are smaller in classrooms where teachers express a belief that students can improve their abilities. However, a scalable method for motivating teachers to adopt such growth mindset–supportive teaching practices has remained elusive. In part, this is because teachers often already face overwhelming demands on their time and attention and have reason to be skeptical of the professional development advice they receive from researchers and other experts. We designed an intervention that overcame these obstacles and successfully motivated high-school teachers to adopt specific practices that support students’ growth mindsets. The intervention used the values-alignment approach. This approach motivates behavioral change by framing a desired behavior as aligned with a core value—one that is an important criterion for status and admiration in the relevant social reference group. First, using qualitative interviews and a nationally representative survey of teachers, we identified a relevant core value: inspiring students’ enthusiastic engagement with learning. Next, we designed a ~45-min, self-administered, online intervention that persuaded teachers to view growth mindset–supportive practices as a way to foster such student engagement and thus live up to that value. We randomly assigned 155 teachers (5,393 students) to receive the intervention and 164 teachers (6,167 students) to receive a control module. The growth mindset–supportive teaching intervention successfully promoted teachers’ adoption of the suggested practices, overcoming major barriers to changing teachers’ classroom practices that other scalable approaches have failed to surmount. The intervention also substantially improved student achievement in socioeconomically disadvantaged classes, reducing inequality in educational outcomes.more » « lessFree, publicly-accessible full text available June 20, 2024
Educational outcomes remain highly unequal within and across nations. Students’ mindsets—their beliefs about whether intellectual abilities can be developed—have been identified as a potential lever for making adolescents’ academic outcomes more equitable. Recent research, however, suggests that intervention programs aimed at changing students’ mindsets should be supplemented by programs aimed at the changing the mindset
culture, which is defined as the shared set of beliefs about learning in a school or classroom. This paper reviews the theoretical and empirical origin of the mindset culture and examines its potential to reduce group-based inequalities in education. In particular, experiments have identified two broad ways the mindset culture is communicated by teachers: via informal messagesabout growth (e.g., that all students will be helped to learn and succeed), and formal opportunitiesto improve (e.g., learning-focused grading policies and opportunities to revise and earn credit). New field experiments, applying techniques from behavioral science, have also revealed effective ways to influence teachers’ culture-creating behaviors. This paper describes recent breakthroughs in the U.S. educational context and discusses how lessons from these studies might be applied in future, global collaborations with researchers and practitioners.
Behavioral science interventions have the potential to address longstanding policy problems, but their effects are typically heterogeneous across contexts (e.g., teachers, schools, and geographic regions). This contextual heterogeneity is poorly understood, however, which reduces the field’s impact and its understanding of mechanisms. Here, we present an efficient way to interrogate heterogeneity and address these gaps in knowledge. This method a) presents scenarios that vividly represent different moderating contexts, b) measures a short-term behavioral outcome (e.g., an academic choice) that is known to relate to typical intervention outcomes (e.g., academic achievement), and c) assesses the causal effect of the moderating context on the link between the psychological variable typically targeted by interventions and this short-term outcome. We illustrated the utility of this approach across four experiments (total n = 3,235) that directly tested contextual moderators of the links between growth mindset, which is the belief that ability can be developed, and students’ academic choices. The present results showed that teachers’ growth mindset-supportive messages and the structural opportunities they provide moderated the link between students’ mindsets and their choices (studies 1 to 3). This pattern was replicated in a nationally representative sample of adolescents and did not vary across demographic subgroups (study 2), nor was this pattern the result of several possible confounds (studies 3 to 4). Discussion centers on how this method of interrogating contextual heterogeneity can be applied to other behavioral science interventions and broaden their impact in other policy domains.more » « lessFree, publicly-accessible full text available January 3, 2024
Dolan, Erin L. (Ed.)Mindset interventions, which shift students’ beliefs about classroom experiences, have shown promise for promoting diversity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Psychologists have emphasized the importance of customizing these interventions to specific courses, but there is not yet a protocol for doing so. We developed a protocol for creating customized “peer-modeled” mindset interventions that elicit advice from former students in videotaped interviews. In intervention activities, clips from these interviews, in which the former students’ stories model the changes in thinking about challenge and struggle that helped them succeed in a specific course, are provided to incoming life sciences students. Using this protocol, we developed a customized intervention for three sections of Introductory Biology I at a large university and tested it in a randomized controlled trial ( N = 917). The intervention shifted students’ attributions for struggle in the class away from a lack of potential to succeed and toward the need to develop a better approach to studying. The intervention also improved students’ approaches to studying and sense of belonging and had promising effects on performance and persistence in biology. Effects were pronounced among first-generation college students and underrepresented racial/ethnic minority students, who have been historically underrepresented in the STEM fields.more » « less
Single‐session interventions have the potential to address young people's mental health needs at scale, but their effects are heterogeneous. We tested whether the
mindset + supportive contexthypothesis could help explain when intervention effects persist or fade over time. The hypothesis posits that interventions are more effective in environments that support the intervention message. We tested this hypothesis using the synergistic mindsets intervention, a preventative treatment for stress‐related mental health symptoms that helps students appraise stress as a potential asset in the classroom (e.g., increasing oxygenated blood flow) rather than debilitating. In an introductory college course, we examined whether intervention‐consistent messages from instructors sustained changes in appraisals over time, as well as impacts on students' predisposition to try demanding academic tasks that could enhance learning. Methods
We randomly assigned 1675 students in the course to receive the synergistic mindsets intervention (or a control activity) at the beginning of the semester, and subsequently, to receive intervention‐supportive messages from their instructor (or neutral messages) four times throughout the term. We collected weekly measures of students' appraisals of stress in the course and their predisposition to take on academic challenges. Trial‐registration: OSF.io; DOI: 10.17605/osf.io/fchyn.
A conservative Bayesian analysis indicated that receiving both the intervention and supportive messages led to the greatest increases in positive stress appraisals (0.35
SD; 1.00 posterior probability) and challenge‐seeking predisposition (2.33 percentage points; 0.94 posterior probability), averaged over the course of the semester. In addition, intervention effects grew larger throughout the semester when complemented by supportive instructor messages, whereas without these messages, intervention effects shrank somewhat over time. Conclusions
This study shows, for the first time, that supportive cues in local contexts can be the difference in whether a single‐session intervention's effects fade over time or persist and even amplify.
Lockman, Jeffrey J. (Ed.)Beliefs play a central role in human development. For instance, a growth mindset—a belief about the malleability of intelligence—can shape how adolescents interpret and respond to academic difficulties and how they subsequently navigate the educational system. But do usually-adaptive beliefs have the same effects for adolescents regardless of the contexts they are in? Answering this question can reveal new insights into classic developmental questions about continuity and change. Here we present the Mindset×Context framework and we apply this model to the instructive case of growth mindset interventions. We show that teaching students a growth mindset is most effective in educational contexts that provide affordances for a growth mindset; that is, contexts that permit and encourage students to view ability as developable and to act on that belief. This evidence contradicts the “beliefs alone” hypothesis, which holds that teaching adolescents a growth mindset is enough and that students can profit from these beliefs in almost any context, even unsupportive ones. The Mindset×Context framework leads to the realization that in order to produce more widespread and lasting change, we must complement the belief-changing interventions that have been aimed at students with new interventions that guide teachers toward classroom policies and practices that allow students' growth mindset beliefs to take root and yield benefits.more » « less
null (Ed.)Researchers often invoke the metaphor of a pipeline when studying participation in careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), focusing on the important issue of students who “leak” from the pipeline, but largely ignoring students who persist in STEM. Using interview, survey, and institutional data over 6 years, we examined the experiences of 921 students who persisted in biomedical fields through college graduation and planned to pursue biomedical careers. Despite remaining in the biomedical pipeline, almost half of these students changed their career plans, which was almost twice the number of students who abandoned biomedical career paths altogether. Women changed plans more often and were more likely than men to change to a career requiring fewer years of post-graduate education. Results highlight the importance of studying within-pipeline patterns rather than focusing only on why students leave STEM fields.more » « less