Research ArticleSCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY

STEM faculty who believe ability is fixed have larger racial achievement gaps and inspire less student motivation in their classes

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Science Advances  15 Feb 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 2, eaau4734
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau4734

Abstract

An important goal of the scientific community is broadening the achievement and participation of racial minorities in STEM fields. Yet, professors’ beliefs about the fixedness of ability may be an unwitting and overlooked barrier for stigmatized students. Results from a longitudinal university-wide sample (150 STEM professors and more than 15,000 students) revealed that the racial achievement gaps in courses taught by more fixed mindset faculty were twice as large as the achievement gaps in courses taught by more growth mindset faculty. Course evaluations revealed that students were demotivated and had more negative experiences in classes taught by fixed (versus growth) mindset faculty. Faculty mindset beliefs predicted student achievement and motivation above and beyond any other faculty characteristic, including their gender, race/ethnicity, age, teaching experience, or tenure status. These findings suggest that faculty mindset beliefs have important implications for the classroom experiences and achievement of underrepresented minority students in STEM.

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