Academic journal article Middle Grades Research Journal

Exploring Teacher Effects for Mindset Intervention Outcomes in Seventh-Grade Science Classes

Academic journal article Middle Grades Research Journal

Exploring Teacher Effects for Mindset Intervention Outcomes in Seventh-Grade Science Classes

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to examine teacher-related variation in the effects of a classroom intervention designed to impact seventh graders' beliefs about the nature of ability in science as fixed or malleable. This study was the second in a series of studies testing whether the Brainology program, an intervention that promoted the belief that ability is malleable, ultimately enhanced young adolescents' motivation for science. In this study, researchers tested for teacher-related differences in the degree to which the intervention was effective as measured by several student outcomes. Researchers then examined classroom observational data and teacher reports to understand how teachers might have enhanced or detracted from the impact of the intervention.

Beliefs About the Malleability of Intelligence

Dweck and others found that significant numbers of school-age children believe that ability is fixed, particularly in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics that these beliefs predict achievement (Dweck, 2006; Hill, Corbett, & St. Rose, 2010). Incremental theories of intelligence (growth mindsets) have been found to predict greater achievement and effort in school than entity theories (fixed mindsets) from early childhood through college (Blackwell, Trzesniewski, & Dweck, 2007; Dweck, 2008; Yeager & Dweck, 2012). Much of the prior research has been conducted in the context of mathematics; we extended those findings to the context of science during middle school.

In multiple lab studies, researchers have shown that mindset can be changed (see Dweck, 1999). Those lab studies led to attempts to promote growth mindsets among students in schools. A mindset intervention with seventh graders, which was similar to the one used in this study, was successful at influencing students' beliefs about the malleability of intelligence, increasing their mastery goal orientation, and improving their mathematics grades. Mastery goal orientation refers to the degree to which students take on academic tasks with the goal of learning something new, developing skills, and improving understanding. Mastery goal orientation is often contrasted with performance goal orientation, which refers to a focus on demonstrating one's ability or competence, and a concern with how one's ability will be judged compared to others (Ames, 1992; Dweck & Leggett, 1988; Elliott & Dweck, 1988; Nicholls, 1984). Students with a growth mindset tend to adopt a mastery orientation when approaching academic tasks (Dweck, 1999).

Our first study showed that middle school student participants in the mindset intervention developed more of a growth mindset (pre to post) than did students in the control group (Schmidt, Kackar-Cam & Shumow, 2015). For example, participants developed significantly stronger beliefs about the malleability of intelligence in science over the course of the intervention, while students in the control group did not. There was also a significant change in mastery goal orientation as a result of the intervention; students who participated in the intervention reported an increase in mastery goal orientation over the course of the intervention whereas nonparticipants in the control group reported a decrease in mastery goal orientation. The focus of this study is the beliefs and practices of two teachers in whose classrooms (n = 7) the intervention was conducted, and the beliefs of their students at follow-up (several months after the intervention).

Outcomes of Interventions by Teacher

The first purpose of the present study was to investigate whether the student outcomes associated with the intervention differed by teacher. Researchers have not yet fully considered the role that the teacher plays in implementing mindset interventions in classrooms, particularly in domains such as science. There are several reasons to expect that the impact of classroom interventions on student outcomes will vary by teacher. …

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