Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Preservice and Inservice Teachers' Implicit Theories of Intelligence

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Preservice and Inservice Teachers' Implicit Theories of Intelligence

Article excerpt

Implicit theories of intelligence (i.e., individuals' beliefs about the nature of intelligence, such as whether it is fixed or changeable) are important because they are related to individuals' behaviors and their beliefs in other areas (Sternberg, 2000). Implicit theories of intelligence are especially important in educational settings because students who view intelligence as something that can be changed tend to be more academically motivated and perform at higher academic levels than students who view intelligence as a fixed, unchangeable trait (Blackwell, Trzesniewski, & Dweck, 2007; Dweck, 1999). Thus, researchers have found it useful to think about implicit beliefs of intelligence as being in one of two categories: the incremental view of intelligence or the entity view of intelligence (Dweck, 1999; Hong, Chiu, Dweck, Lin, & Wan, 1999). An incremental view is defined as the belief that individuals have some level of control over their own intelligence, and that their intelligence level can be increased through studying and learning. In contrast, those with an entity view of intelligence believe that humans are born with a level of intelligence that is pre-determined by genetics, and that this level of intelligence is static.

Much of the research related to implicit theories of intelligence has focused on investigating the beliefs of students. As a result, there is less research related to teachers' beliefs about intelligence. Teachers' conceptions of intelligence are important, however, because they have been found to affect students' beliefs about intelligence (Oakes, Wells, Jones, & Datnow, 1997; Watanabe, 2006), which in turn impacts students' motivation and achievement (Dweck, 1999). The purpose of this study is to contribute to the literature on implicit theories of intelligence by investigating the nature of preservice and inservice teachers' intelligence beliefs.


Students' Implicit Theories of Intelligence

Some evidence indicates that children's beliefs about the stability of intelligence change as they get older. Younger children are more likely to believe that intelligence is changeable until about the age of 10-12 years old, when they begin to develop more entity-like theories of intelligence (Dweck, 1999; Dweck & Elliott, 1983). However, the extent of the change in children's beliefs from incremental to entity is not well understood. In one study, 87% of kindergarteners, 90% of second graders, 97% of fifth graders, and 88% of eighth graders responded that they could change to get smarter (Kurtz-Costes, McCall, Kinlaw, Wiesen, & Joyner, 2005), indicating that most of them held a changeable view of intelligence. Similarly, Jones, Byrd, and Lusk (2009) found that 88% of ninth- and eleventh-grade students reported believing that intelligence was malleable. These findings suggest that the percentage of students who believe that intelligence is malleable remains high and fairly consistent from kindergarten through eleventh grade.

Some researchers have explicated the relationship between implicit theories of intelligence and students' achievement and motivation. In general, an incremental view of intelligence has been linked to higher student achievement (Blackwell et al., 2007; Dweck, 1999; Gonida, Kiosseoglou, & Leondari, 2006; Henderson & Dweck, 1990; Roedel & Schraw, 1995). Some researchers have documented that an incremental view is directly related to achievement (Gonida et al., 2006), whereas others have found this link to be indirect, mediated by learning goals (Roedel & Schraw, 1995; Leondari & Gialamas, 2002). Other researchers have tested a more complex model in which an incremental theory of intelligence led to mastery goals (a.k.a., learning goals) and positive effort beliefs, which then led to fewer ability-based, helpless attributions and more positive strategies, which led to improved grades (Blackwell et al. …

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