- Year 2022
- NSF Noyce Award # 2140288
- First Name Stamatis
- Last Name Vokos
- Discipline Other:Psychology/STEM
Stamatis Vokos & Matt Beekman, Cal Poly SLO; Sanlyn Buxner, University of Arizona
Catherine Good, Baruch College, CUNY
Research into teacher research experiences (TREs) often focuses on how best to support inservice and preservice teachers’ abilities to teach research and incorporate authentic STEM practices in their classrooms. What has been missing, however, is a focus on the psycho-social factors that research in social psychology has found to be important predictors of students’ STEM outcomes and teachers’ STEM pedagogical practices. For example, when students think of intelligence as a fixed quantity rather than a malleable quality, their motivation, performance, and learning suffers. Similarly, when teachers hold these fixed (rather than growth) mindsets, they are more likely to reduce opportunities for their students to work on challenging content and are more likely to have race gaps in achievement in their classrooms. In addition, these “fixed” mindsets can lead to feelings that one does not “belong” in the academic domain, ultimately leading to attrition from the field. This research begins to fill that gap by investigating the role that the STEM Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program can play in fostering growth mindsets and hardy feelings of belonging for the preservice fellows who participate.
The purpose of this study was to investigate whether participation in STAR would lead to more productive mindsets, hardier feelings of belonging, and stronger sense of identification with STEM. Specifically, we proposed that STAR Fellows would be more likely to (a) adopt the view that STEM intelligence is a malleable quality that can be increased with effort and engagement, (b) strengthen their feelings of belonging to the STEM community, and (c) incorporate “scientist” into their identity.
Social psychology has long shown that students’ mindsets about the nature of intelligence are important predictors of their motivation, achievement, and learning. Unfortunately, the culture of talent that pervades many science disciplines reinforces fixed mindsets rather than growth mindsets about STEM, which, in turn, can undermine one’s sense of belonging–the feeling that one is a valued member of the academic STEM community. We drew from this literature such that each of the seven, 3-hour workshop sessions provided opportunities to develop an understanding of growth mindset and belonging, and to consider how these notions could be applied to the Fellows’ own classrooms. To test these hypotheses, we conducted a longitudinal study investigating the relationship between participation in STAR and psychosocial mindsets (growth mindset, belonging, and identity). STAR Fellows completed a battery of instruments designed to measure their mindsets at three time points: (1) prior to participation in the STAR summer workshops and internships, (2) immediately after the summer experience, and (3) approximately six months after the intervention.
Results showed that participation in STAR led to a significant increase in growth mindset from time 1 to time 2 and from time 1 to time 3. In addition we found no significant decreases in growth mindset from time 2 to time 3. Taken together, these results suggest that STAR is an effective and enduring intervention to foster growth mindsets in STEM teachers, even when they are not actively being engaged in ongoing professional development around the concepts of growth mindset. In addition, we found that STAR Fellows reported a significantly greater feeling of belonging to the STEM community from time 1 to time 2. Interestingly, the gains in belonging decreased at time 3, suggesting a need for ongoing support of our Fellows after leaving the research labs.
Similar work in mathematics education showed that giving teachers opportunities to engage in authentic, research-based mathematics not only led to more growth (rather than fixed) mindsets, but also led to greater feelings of belonging to the math community. Importantly, these changes in mindsets had significant effects on their pedagogical practices–they were more likely to endorse mastery rather than performance goals for their classrooms and reported greeted comfort with their students making mistakes. Thus, the approach that STAR has embraced by highlighting the importance of fostering productive mindsets has the potential not only to shift teachers’ mindsets, but also to affect their classroom practices.