Research Library

Search over three decades of research on mindsets, including Mindset Scholars Network briefs and working papers, and other publications from Network studies and initiatives.

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The authors propose a cultural mismatch theory that identifies one source of the social class achievement gap between first-generation and continuing-generation college students. Four studies test the hypothesis that first-generation students underperform because interdependent norms from their mostly working-class backgrounds constitute a mismatch with middle-class independent norms prevalent in universities. First, surveys of university administrators revealed that American universities focus primarily on norms of independence. Second, a longitudinal survey revealed that universities' focus on independence does not match first-generation students' relatively interdependent motives for attending college and that this cultural mismatch is associated with lower grades. Finally, 2 experiments revealed that representing the university culture in terms of independence (i.e., paving one's own paths) rendered academic tasks difficult and, thereby, undermined first-generation students' performance. Conversely, representing the university culture in terms of interdependence (i.e., being part of a community) reduced this sense of difficulty and eliminated the performance gap without adverse consequences for continuing-generation students.

Despite efforts to attract and maintain diverse students in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) pipeline, issues with attrition from undergraduate STEM majors persist. The aim of this study was to examine how undergraduate science students’ competence beliefs, task values, and perceived costs in science combine into motivational profiles and to consider how such profiles relate to short‐term and long‐term persistence outcomes in STEM. We also examined the relations between underrepresented group membership and profile membership. Using latent profile analysis, we identified three profiles that characterized 600 participants’ motivation during their first semester in college: Moderate All, Very High Competence/Values‐Low Effort Cost, and High Competence/Values‐Moderate Low Costs. The Moderate All profile was associated with the completion of fewer STEM courses and lower STEM grade point averages relative to the other profiles after 1 and 4 years of college. Furthermore, underrepresented minority students were overrepresented in the Moderate All profile. Findings contribute to our understanding of how science competence beliefs, task values, and perceived costs may coexist and what combinations of these variables may be adaptive or deleterious for STEM persistence and achievement.

Expectancy-value theory (Eccles, 2009) posits that students’ relative expectancies and values across domains inform their academic choices. Students should therefore be more likely to choose a STEM major if they have higher expectancies and values in STEM domains compared with other domains. Accordingly, this study aimed to explore how upper secondary school students’ profiles in expectancy-value beliefs in math and English are related to concurrent achievement and university major choice. Data on expectancies and values in math and English were collected from 2,153 German students in their last school year, along with their concurrent math and English achievement and their university major 2 years later. Latent profile analyses revealed four distinct expectancy-value profiles characterized as Low Math/High English, Moderate Math/Moderate English, High Math/Low English, and High Math/High English. Students’ gender, socioeconomic status, and type of school were meaningfully associated with profile membership. For instance, female students were overrepresented in the Low Math/High English profile compared with other profiles. Students in the four profiles also differed in their math and English achievement. These differences were mostly in line with students’ expectancies and values in the respective domain, but some differences suggested that intraindividual cross-domain comparison processes were also at play. Finally, profile membership predicted students’ choice of a STEM major over and above demographic characteristics and achievement. Students in the High Math/Low English profile were most likely to choose a STEM major. These findings support the importance of considering intraindividual comparisons of expectancies and values for students’ achievement-related behavior and choices.

High rates of discipline citations predict adverse life outcomes, a harm disproportionately borne by Black and Latino boys. We hypothesized that these citations arise in part from negative cycles of interaction between students and teachers, which unfold in contexts of social stereotypes. Can targeted interventions to facilitate identity safety—a sense of belonging, inclusion, and growth—for students help? Experiment 1 combined social-belonging, values-affirmation, and growth-mindset interventions delivered in several class sessions in 2 middle schools with a large Latino population (N = 669). This treatment reduced citations among negatively stereotyped boys in 7th and 8th grades by 57% as compared with a randomized control condition. A growth-mindset only treatment was also effective. Experiment 2 tested the social-belonging intervention alone, a grade earlier, at a third school with a large Black population and more overall citations (N = 137 sixth-grade students). In 2 class sessions, students reflected on stories from previous 7th-grade students, which represented worries about belonging and relationships with teachers early in middle school as normal and as improving with time. This exercise reduced citations among Black boys through the end of high school by 65%. Suggesting improved interactions with teachers, longitudinal analyses found that the intervention prevented rises in citations involving subjective judgments (e.g., “insubordination”) within 6th and 7th grades. It also forestalled the emergence of worries about being seen stereotypically by the end of 7th grade. Identity threat can give rise to cycles of interaction that are maladaptive for both teachers and students in school; targeted exercises can interrupt these cycles to improve disciplinary outcomes over years.

Although online courses are becoming increasingly popular in higher education, evidence is inconclusive regarding whether online students are likely to be as academically successful and motivated as students in face-to-face courses. In this study, we documented online and face-to-face students’ academic motivation and outcomes in community college mathematics courses, and whether differences might vary based on student characteristics (i.e., gender, underrepresented ethnic/racial minority status, first-generation college status, and adult learner status). Over 2,400 developmental mathematics students reported on their math motivation at the beginning (Week 1) and middle (Weeks 3, 5) of the semester. Findings indicated that online students received lower grades and were less likely to pass from their courses than face-to-face students, with online adult learners receiving particularly low final course grades and pass rates. In contrast, online and face-to-face students did not differ on incoming motivation, with subgroup analyses suggesting largely similar patterns of motivation across student groups. Together, findings suggest that online and face-to-face students may differ overall in academic outcomes but not in their motivation or differentially based on student characteristics. Small but significant differences on academic outcomes across modalities (Cohen’s ds = 0.17–0.28) have implications for community college students’ success in online learning environments, particularly for adult learners who are most likely to be faced with competing demands.

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