T2.2 Develop positive academic mindsets
Highlander Institute Spotlight Series
An academic mindset is a key part of student agency and learning readiness, impacting motivation, engagement, and perseverance. As detailed in research from The University of Chicago Consortium, the four beliefs of an academic mindset are:
- I belong in this academic community
- My ability and competence grow with my effort (growth mindset)
- I can succeed at this
- This work has value for me
Student perceptions around these statements deeply influence their learning behaviors, which enable academic success. Yet, inequities within school systems and learning experiences result in disparities between student self-perceptions. Research shows that students from lower-income families are less likely to hold a growth mindset than their wealthier peers (Claro et al., 2016). Further, student-reported beliefs about growth mindset were 0.2–0.8 standard deviation lower for students with lower prior academic achievement, English learner students, and Black students than for their higher achieving, non–English learner, and White counterparts (Snipes & Tran, 2017).
How teachers foster academic mindsets in their students is important — and teacher mindsets matter. Educators who believe that student ability and competence are fixed tend to treat academic mindset as an IQ score, rather than a developmental process. Cultivating academic mindsets is not like teaching facts or skills; it is about supporting students to internalize habits of mind.
- Growth mindset reliably predicts achievement (Claro et al., 2016). There is a strong and growing evidence base that connects strong academic mindsets with better grades, higher GPAs, lower dropout rates (Farrington et al, 2012, pp. 30-31); and higher achievement test scores (Paunesku et al., 2015).
- Such positive results hold true for students across the socioeconomic spectrum, highlighting the power of academic mindsets to help combat the effects of poverty (Claro et al., 2016).
- Research supports the concept that academic mindsets are malleable and can be intentionally developed in students, generating the positive outcomes highlighted above (Yeager & Walton, 2011; Aronson et al., 2002; Study 2 in Blackwell et al., 2007; Cohen et al., 2006; Hulleman & Harackiewicz, 2009; Oyserman et al., 2006; Walton & Cohen, 2007, 2011; Paunesku et al., 2015).
- For a comprehensive research review, please refer to the June 2012 report, Teaching Adolescents to Become Learners: The Role of Noncognitive Factors in Shaping School Performance: A Critical Literature Review.
“When students believe they are likely to succeed in meeting academic demands in a classroom, they are much more likely to try hard and to persevere in completing academic tasks, even if they find the work challenging or do not experience immediate success. Believing one can be successful is a prerequisite to putting forth sustained effort.” Further, the “degree to which students value an academic task strongly influences their choice, persistence, and performance at the task” (Farrington et al., 2012, p. 29).
- In this blog post, Zaretta Hammond, author of Culturally Responsive Teaching & the Brain, details how to Create Counternarratives that disrupt the dominant messages students receive and internalize about their identities. Using this strategy is a great fit when building off of what you learn about your students in the Awareness Domain of the CRSP Framework.
- The Mindset Kit is a free, comprehensive set of online lessons and practices designed to help you foster adaptive beliefs about learning in your classroom.
- The Mathematical Mindset Guide helps teachers create and strengthen a growth mindset culture. The guide contains five Mathematical Mindset Practices along with links to teaching videos.
- Read about 5 Strategies for Changing Mindsets by Dave Paunesku.
Aronson, J., Fried, C.B., & Good, C. (2002). Reducing the effects of stereotype threat on African American college students by shaping theories of intelligence. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 38, 113-125. https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1006/jesp.2001.1491
Blackwell, L. S., Trzesniewski, K. H., & Dweck, C. S. (2007). Implicit theories of intelligence predict achievement across an adolescent transition: A longitudinal study and an intervention. Child development, 78(1), 246–263. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2007.00995.x
Claro, S., Paunesku, D., & Dweck, C.S. (2016). Mindset tempers effects of poverty on achievement. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113 (31), 8664-8668. http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1608207113
Cohen, G.L., Garcia, J., Apfel, N., & Master, A. (2006). Reducing the racial achievement gap: A social-psychological intervention. Science, 313, 1307–1310. https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.1128317
Farrington, C.A., Roderick, M., Allensworth, E., Nagaoka, J., Keyes, T.S., Johnson, D.W., & Beechum, N.O. (2012). Teaching adolescents to become learners. The role of noncognitive factors in shaping school performance: A critical literature review. Chicago: University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research. Retrieved from https://consortium.uchicago.edu/sites/default/files/2018-10/Noncognitive%20Report_0.pdf
Hulleman, C.S., & Harackiewicz, J.M. (2009). Making education relevant: Increasing interest and performance in high school science classes. Science, 326, 1410-1412. https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.1177067
Oyserman, D., Bybee, D., & Terry, K. (2006). Possible selves and academic outcomes: How and when possible selves impel action. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91, 188-204. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35126.96.36.199
Paunesku, D., Walton, G. M., Romero, C., Smith, E. N., Yeager, D. S., & Dweck, C. S. (2015). Mind-set interventions are a scalable treatment for academic underachievement. Psychological Science, 26(6), 784–793. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797615571017
Snipes, J., & Tran, L. (2017). Growth mindset, performance avoidance, and academic behaviors in Clark County School District (REL 2017–226). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory West. Retrieved from http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs
Walton, G.M., & Cohen, G.L. (2007). A question of belonging: Race, social fit, and achievement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 82-96. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35188.8.131.52
Walton, G.M., & Cohen, G.L. (2011). A brief social-belonging intervention improves academic and health outcomes among minority students. Science, 331, 1447-1451. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1198364
Yeager, D.S., & Walton, G.M. (2011). Social-psychological interventions in education: They’re not magic. Review of Educational Research, 81(2), 267-301. https://doi.org/10.3102%2F0034654311405999