Students’ beliefs about intelligence (termed “mindset”) influence their motivation, behaviors, and ultimately academic performance and persistence. Mindset has been widely studied in educational contexts, but the survey used to measure mindset does not work well with undergraduate students. Thus, the goal of this project is to develop a new survey to measure mindset in STEM undergraduates. This measure will be useful for researchers, practitioners, and institutions to study undergraduate STEM students’ beliefs about intelligence and ultimately improve students’ academic outcomes.
Mindset refers to whether a student believes that intelligence is a trait that is innate and unchangeable (“fixed” mindset) or malleable and improvable (“growth” mindset). When students struggle academically, those with a growth mindset are more likely to take action to improve their performance while those with a fixed mindset are more likely to give up or accept low performance. Student success initiatives have attempted to leverage the effects of mindset to improve student success by conducting interventions to encourage students to adopt a growth mindset. However, these interventions have had varied success. One reason for this may be that the survey used to measure mindset does not work well with undergraduate students, thus limiting our ability to measure the effectiveness and outcomes of mindset interventions. The survey used to measure mindset was developed based on research with primary school children and has been used with students at all levels, including undergraduates. Preliminary research by the investigators reveals that the existing mindset survey may not work well with undergraduate students because they interpret the questions on the survey in multiple ways. Thus, the goal of this project is to develop and validate a new survey to measure mindset in STEM undergraduates.
This new survey would be useful in a number of ways. Researchers could use it to answer important questions about mindset in undergraduate students. Instructors could use it to learn about the mindsets of undergraduates in their classes and tailor their instruction accordingly. Practitioners could use it to develop and evaluate interventions that aim to increase student success by encouraging students to shift towards a growth mindset.
This project will accomplish three main goals:
These goals will be accomplished in three phases:
In the first phase, we will interview a diverse group of STEM undergraduates about their beliefs about intelligence and analyze their responses to identify key terms that are interpreted reliably and consistently and thus could be used in the new measure.
In the second phase, we will use these results from the first phase to draft survey items representing the range of students’ beliefs about the malleability of their cognitive abilities. The draft survey will be used to collect data from a national sample of STEM undergraduates and analyzed to examine the internal structure of the measure and to make any needed refinements.
Finally, a second national dataset will be collected and analyzed to investigate how responses to the new measure relate to student outcomes and other relevant traits, beliefs, and attitudes.
Lisa Limeri (Biochemistry & Molecular Biology)
Erin Dolan (Biochemistry & Molecular Biology)
Nathan Carter (Psychology)
Social Psychology of Undergraduate STEM Education VIP Team