K-12 Teachers and Classrooms Research Portfolio

The Mindset Scholars Network has launched an interdisciplinary initiative to yield new knowledge about K-12 learning environments that foster inclusion and learning mindsets. Projects fall under one of two topic areas. The first topic focuses on identifying and codifying teacher practices and behaviors that facilitate a sense of belonging and positive academic identity development, particularly in mathematics contexts among students from groups that are minoritized in mathematics. These groups include, for example, black, Latinx, and Native American students; students from families facing economic disadvantage; students who are emerging multilingual learners; and girls. The second topic focuses on advancing knowledge on measurement of classroom environments related to learning mindsets and inclusion.

FUNDERS

A total of more than one million dollars has been awarded to the seven projects in this portfolio. Funding for the initiative was provided through grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

PROJECTS & TEAM MEMBERS

The projects include 11 Mindset Scholars working alongside 28 external collaborators. Additionally, three projects leverage direct partnerships with school and district stakeholders. Each project team includes at least one emerging scholar in order to continue developing a strong pipeline of scientists skilled in novel interdisciplinary, practically-relevant research.

Projects will explore Advanced Placement mathematics, computer science, and ethnic studies classrooms, among others. They will shed light on how teacher practices and beliefs, curricula and instruction, and school practices and policies related to discipline and course enrollment shape students’ experiences in K-12 classrooms.

OTHER TEAM MEMBERS:
Neil Lewis, Jr. (Co-I), Emily Penner

TEAM DISCIPLINES:
Economics, Psychology, Education

PROJECT ABSTRACT:
An extensive body of research, largely from the field of social psychology, has provided leading evidence on the promise of interventions that seek to increase students’ engagement and performance through the promotion of positive academic identities and belongingness in schools. However, as yet, we know comparatively little about how to incorporate these scientific insights into the diverse, everyday professional practices of teachers. One prominent counter-example is the grade-9 ethnic-studies curriculum developed in the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD). A recent study by Dee and Penner (2017) conducted in partnership with SFUSD examined the causal effects of this curriculum by leveraging the discontinuous assignment rule used to encourage students to take this social studies class. They found that taking this course led to dramatic increases in several proximate grade-9 outcomes (i.e., attendance, GPA, and credits earned). Conceptually, they also argue that, in its design and delivery, the culturally relevant pedagogy (CRP) exemplified by this course resembles an unusual combination of intensive and sustained social-psychological interventions. The one-year results of the SFUSD study have influenced both the adoption of similar curricula elsewhere and contributed to emerging discussions about incorporating social-psychological insights into everyday educational practice. However, we do not yet know whether the promising short-term effects of taking this curriculum were sustained beyond one year. This study will examine the longer-term causal effects of the ethnic-studies curriculum using the original study’s regression-discontinuity (RD) design. In particular, we will study, in partnership with SFUSD, the effects of grade-9 ethnic-studies curriculum on key outcomes: high-school persistence, graduation, and college matriculation. The cohorts in the Dee and Penner (2017) study have now aged enough that these important longer-term educational outcomes are captured in SFUSD’s administrative data. Understanding whether the promising early student gains are sustained is critical for educational policy and practice. In particular, if we were to find that participation in this one course led to student gains that were largely sustained, it would underscore the power of one well-designed and targeted course. However, if the initial gains were not sustained, the proposed research would raise important new questions about how best to scaffold and sustain the promising short term effects of the course.

OTHER TEAM MEMBERS:
Sean Kelly (Co-I), Stephanie Wormington (Co-I), Joshua Davis, Emily Jensen, Hadassah Muthokah, Mary Rose Philipoom, Catherine Riegle-Crumb, James Stigler, Baeksan Yu

TEAM DISCIPLINES:
Computer Science, Sociology, Psychology, Mathematics Education

PROJECT ABSTRACT:
From carefully crafted messages to flippant remarks, warm expressions to unfriendly tones, teachers’ behaviors set the tone, expectations, and attitudes of the classroom. Importantly, teacher behaviors are not perceived in the same way by all students; rather, students’ background plays a key role in how these behaviors are interpreted. Though not always intentional, certain teacher behaviors risk marginalizing students with stigmatized identities, especially with respect to gender, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status (SES). Other teachers create a normative environment of inclusion and widespread engagement through effective discourse practices, among other strategies. Because measurement is a precursor to change, it is prudent that we identify the ways in which teachers foster motivation, positive identity, and a strong sense of belonging through inclusive messaging and other interactions. Using videos from 6th to 9th grade mathematics classes, student self-report questionnaires, and achievement data from the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project, we aim to use human coding as well as automated speech and language processing to identify teacher verbal and nonverbal behaviors that are related to students’ psychological and academic outcomes, particularly for students with stigmatized identities. Our interdisciplinary team blends expertise in cognitive and computer science, developmental and educational psychology, and sociology of education. We are positioned to make theoretical and methodological advances on how teacher practices relate to students’ psychological and academic outcomes, while also providing actionable information to help teachers improve their own practices, which should have positive downstream consequences for students.

OTHER TEAM MEMBERS:
Jessica Calarco (Co-I), Mesmin Destin (Co-I), Patricia Schaefer (Co-I), Jaymes Pyne, Elizabeth Vaade, Alex Viegut, Jake Wertz

TEAM DISCIPLINES:
Sociology, Psychology, Education

PROJECT ABSTRACT:
Students’ sense of belonging in school is both an important reflection of personal and structural forces that shape their educational careers and a key determinant of their educational investments and success. We propose a collaboration between a multidisciplinary team of researchers and practitioners in a diverse, midsized urban school district to understand if and how teacher beliefs about learning, sense of belonging, and trust influence student sense of belonging and academic performance in mathematics. In the proposed study, we ask the following research questions: (1) How is student sense of belonging distributed within and between middle schools? (2) How is teacher mindset related to student sense of belonging, academic identity, and student success in middle school in general and mathematics classes in particular?; how if at all does the relationship vary by student race and ethnicity? (3) What sorts of practices, behaviors, and instructional environments are associated with stronger student sense of belonging and mathematics identity for middle school students in general and students of color in particular?

OTHER TEAM MEMBERS:
Melanie Gonzalez, L’Heureux Lewis-McCoy, Dixie Ross

TEAM DISCIPLINES:
Sociology, Mathematics Education, Psychology

PROJECT ABSTRACT:
Race operates in nuanced ways to influence students’ opportunities to learn mathematics and shape how minoritized students experience mathematics classrooms across schooling settings. Thus, understanding how students experience racialized mathematics learning environments, especially in high schools with advanced mathematics course offerings, is imperative for promoting equity and student success. In this study, we will explore mathematics teachers’ beliefs and practices related to inclusive teaching and learning environments using both secondary data analysis and primary data collection. We will analyze school, teacher, and student-level data from the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009, in combination with Civil Rights Data Collection from the U.S. Education Department, to identify and describe the racialized learning environment of mathematics classrooms by measuring the presence and prevalence of equity-focused, inclusive beliefs and practices among mathematics teachers working in public high schools, and examining whether and to what extent these beliefs and practices are associated with the magnitude of racialized tracking in advanced mathematics. We will also identify mathematics teachers’ beliefs and practices that are associated with high inclusion ratings in 9th grade and either consistently positive or improved mathematics mindsets between 9th and 11th grade, particularly among minoritized students. Because of the lack of race-oriented measures of mathematics teachers’ beliefs and practices in publicly available survey data programs, we will also survey public high school mathematics teachers about their racialized, equity-focused, and culturally relevant beliefs and practices.

OTHER TEAM MEMBERS:
Ji Yong Cho, Bharathy Premachandra

TEAM DISCIPLINES:
Psychology, Communication, Information Science

PROJECT ABSTRACT:
Previous research in mindset science has documented that there is often heterogeneity in the effects of mindsets on performance. The goal of the current project is to get a better handle on that heterogeneity to examine how differences in high school learning environments shape student mindsets, motivation, and performance. Leveraging a large data set, we will examine how 3,000 different school contexts interact with 6,000 teachers to influence outcomes for over 83,000 students enrolled in an Advanced Placement computer science course taught across the United States. This project will advance our understanding of mindset theory and provide actionable insights to improve academic outcomes and reduce educational disparities.

OTHER TEAM MEMBERS:
Thomas Dee (Co-I), Qiana Lachaud, Tamika McElveen, Aris Winger

TEAM DISCIPLINES:
Psychology, Economics, Education, Mathematics Education

PROJECT ABSTRACT:
This project is a secondary data analysis of the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) Collection to examine the dimensions and predictive power of Belonging-Centered Instruction in middle grades mathematics classrooms. To challenge and extend previous discussions of belonging in secondary school settings, we argue that both interpersonal and instructional supports for belonging are pivotal, particularly for historically marginalized adolescents who are often attempting to negotiate their sense of self in light of societal and academic stigma. We will pursue two major analytic phases of the MET video observations: a qualitative and descriptive phase, followed by a quantitative scoring phase with prediction of student outcomes, including mathematics assessment scores, engagement, and perceptions of the classroom environment. This project addresses a practically-relevant knowledge gap at the intersection of mathematics education, belonging, and equity: the identification of vivid examples that highlight ways of supporting belongingness needs within the context of a fundamental but often threatening subject area, mathematics.

OTHER TEAM MEMBERS:
Constance Lindsay (Co-I), Gregory Walton (Co-I), Parker Goyer

TEAM DISCIPLINES:
Psychology, Economics

PROJECT ABSTRACT:
There is increasing interest in means to reduce rising discipline citations in middle school, especially inequity in the distribution of those citations. Predominant theories and policies characterize this problem as the result of punitive discipline policies (e.g., zero-tolerance policies), teachers’ lack of interpersonal skills, or students’ lack of self-control or social-emotional skills. If teachers convey this respect while disciplining students, this may improve students’ behavior. An empathic-mindset response – one that values students’ perspectives and maintains high-quality relationships in disciplinary interactions – may improve outcomes. The PI conducted a preliminary test of this theory in an intervention aimed at encouraging an empathic mindset about discipline among all mathematics teachers and found that K-12 teachers were more likely to label a black middle school student who was perceived as misbehaving as a troublemaker, as compared to a white middle school student. In turn, teachers reported feeling more troubled by the black student and wanted more punitive discipline action for them. The experiment found that this inequity escalated over the course of multiple incidents, igniting a vicious cycle that ultimately resulted in deteriorated teacher-student relationships and high rates of suspensions. This study will expand upon the prior work and adds to the national dialogue by examining the role of the learning environment and teacher characteristics. School settings can support or hinder the success of interventions in ways that often go unexamined, but are important for understanding how and when effective interventions are efficacious for minoritized students – that is, work in the real world. The study also seeks to understand whether the effects of the empathic intervention are modulated by teachers’ feelings of burnout or job satisfaction, which prior literature has shown can negatively predict teachers’ ability to create supportive environments in which students feel they belong and can be successful.