A huge study at Indiana University, led by Elizabeth Canning, finds that the attitudes of instructors affect the grades their students earned in classes. [Note: Link didn’t work for me, article may not be generally available yet.] The researchers conducted their study by sending out a simple survey to all the instructors of STEM courses at Indiana University, asking whether professors felt that a student’s intelligence is fixed and unchanging or whether they thought it could be developed. Then, the researchers were given access to two years’ worth of students’ grades in those instructors’ classes, covering a total of 15,000 students.
Via Ars Technica:
The results showed a surprising difference between the professors who agreed that intelligence is fixed and those who disagreed (referred to as “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset” professors). In classes taught by fixed mindset instructors, Latino, African-American, and Native American students averaged grades 0.19 grade points (out of four) lower than white and Asian-American students. But in classes taught by “growth mindset” instructors, the gap dropped to just 0.10 grade points. No other factor the researchers analyzed showed a statistically significant difference among classes — not the instructors’ experience, tenure status, gender, specific department, or even ethnicity. Yet their belief about whether a students’ intelligence is fixed seems to have had a sizable effect.
The students’ course evaluations contain possible clues. Students reported less “motivation to do their best work” in the classes taught by fixed mindset professors, and they also gave lower ratings for a question about whether their professor “emphasize[d] learning and development.” Students were less likely to say they’d recommend the professor to others, as well. Is it possible that the fixed mindset professors just happen to teach the hardest classes? The student evaluations also include a question about how much time the course required — the average answer was slightly higher for fixed mindset professors, but the difference was not statistically significant. Instead, the researchers think the data suggests that — in any number of small ways — instructors who think their students’ intelligence is fixed don’t keep their students as motivated, and perhaps don’t focus as much on teaching techniques that can encourage growth. And while this affects all students, it seems to have an extra impact on underrepresented minority students.
I wonder how this applies in law schools?