Motivating teachers to support students’ growth mindsets reduces inequality in high-school students’ academic outcomes

Hecht, Cameron A.
Bryan, Christopher J.
Yeager, David S.
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University of Texas at Austin Population Research Center
The United States is one of the most economically unequal developed countries; education may be one of the best ways to achieve social mobility. However, young people from lower-income backgrounds face many obstacles to academic success. Inequalities between socioeconomically disadvantaged and advantaged students can be made worse when teachers believe that intellectual abilities are fixed and cannot be improved, particularly for disadvantaged students. One way to lessen the negative effects of this thinking would be to stimulate teachers to create a growth mindset classroom culture, which is guided by the belief that students’ intellectual abilities are not fixed but can be improved with effort and learning. Using a values-alignment framework, the authors developed a 45-minute self-administered online intervention to motivate high school teachers to adopt new communication practices in the classroom that support and reinforce students’ growth mindsets. They found that the intervention had a positive impact on teachers and on students’ pass rates and grades. They also found that the intervention reduced inequality between students. If implemented widely, the intervention has the potential to positively impact hundreds of thousands of socioeconomically disadvantaged students.