Extensive study reveals that teachers 'attitudes affect students' grades


Extensive study reveals that teachers 'attitudes affect students' grades


"You just have to believe!" Is the kind of banal line that you expect in a children's movie about a magic talking dog. But it seems that this sentence is also an important tip for college teachers. This is the result of a large study by Elizabeth Canning at Indiana University, in which researchers measured the attitude of the instructors and the grades obtained by their students.

Attention to the gap

One of the disappointing problems in higher education is the frequent existence of a "gap in achievement" between underrepresented minorities and other students. This seems to be the result of various obstacles that students face along the way, ranging from stereotypes about which groups are naturally qualified in which areas, to cultural differences that make some students reluctant to seek help in a class, lack of benefits in primary. and secondary education. Many things can be obstacles.

It is not necessary for these scenarios to take the form of a racist teacher to tell a student that they are not welcome. Many problems are unintentional and subtle. If a student perceives, for whatever reason, that he or she is not expected to succeed, it may be exhausting enough motivation to do so.

That's why the researchers decided to look at something subtle that they thought might be important: that faculty believe that a student's intelligence is fixed and immutable or that she thought she could develop. A simple survey was sent to all Indiana University science, technology, engineering and mathematics teachers. An impressive 40% of them answered: 150 instructors covering 634 courses. The researchers also collected other details, such as years of experience and ethnic backgrounds.

Then, the researchers had access to two years of grades in the classes of these instructors, covering a total of 15,000 students. The identification information has been removed, but some information, such as SAT score entry and ethnicity, has been retained. In an additional step, the researchers also received the feedback assessments submitted by the students, although these responses are completely anonymous.

Fixed or flexible

The results showed a surprising difference between the teachers who agreed that the intelligence is frozen and those who disagreed (called professors "with a fixed mentality" and "with a mentality of growth"). In classes taught by instructors with a fixed state of mind, Latin American, African American and Native American students had on average 0.19 (out of four) school grades less than white students. and Asian Asians. However, in courses taught by instructors with a "growth mentality", the gap is reduced to 0.10 point.

Classes for underrepresented minorities (URM) and white or Asian American students in courses taught by teachers who think that the intelligence is fixed or that can be developed. "Src =" https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/stem_profs_fig1-640x465.jpg "width =" 640 "height =" 465 "srcset =" https: //cdn.arstechnica .net / wp-content / uploads / 2019/02 / stem_profs_fig1.jpg 2x
Enlarge / Grades for underrepresented minorities (URMs) and white or Asian American students in courses taught by teachers who think that intelligence is frozen or can be developed.

No other factors analyzed by the researchers showed any statistically significant difference between classes – nor the instructors' experience, status, gender, department or even ethnicity. Yet their belief in whether the students' intelligence is frozen seems to have had a considerable effect.

Course evaluations of students contain possible clues. Students reported less "motivation to do their best" in courses taught by teachers with a specific state of mind, and they also assigned lower ratings to a question of whether their teacher[d] learning and development. "Students were also less likely to recommend the teacher to others.

Is it possible that professors with a particular state of mind have just taught the most difficult classes? Student assessments also include a question about the time required for the course – the average answer was: slightly higher for teachers with a fixed state of mind, but the difference was not statistically significant.

Rather, the researchers suggest that the data suggests that teachers who think their students' intelligence is frozen do not keep their students as motivated and may not focus so much on teaching techniques that may promote growth. And while this concerns all students, it seems to have an additional impact on underrepresented minority minority students.

The researchers explain that the good news is that teachers can be persuaded to adopt a more growth-oriented mindset in their teaching by taking a little education in turn. This small adjustment of attitude could make it a more effective teacher, to the great advantage of a large number of students.

Open Access to Progress of science, 2019. DOI: 10.1126 / sciadv.aau4734 (About DOIs).

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