Ability beliefs refer to students’ perceptions of their ability as a fixed trait that is beyond their control, or as something that can change and grow. When ability is viewed as fixed, effort may be seen as futile, and failure as due to a lack of ability. On the other hand, when ability is perceived as changeable, effort is simply a means to increasing ability, and failure may be considered a learning opportunity – something that is especially important in scientific inquiry. Chapter 8 addresses these different ways to think about ability, and offers suggestions for how science teachers can impact students’ ability beliefs in a way that boosts motivation and achievement.
Resources to support teachers in developing a growth mindset and minimizing stereotype threat can be found by clicking on the links shown at right. Those resources include handouts and activities, further reading, links to recommended websites, and short (~ 3 minute) video clips illustrating the importance of this concept to practicing scientists and showing exemplary high school teachers who practice the strategies recommended in the book.
1. Growth Mindset
Article on effective praise: Dweck, C.S. (2007). The perils and promise of praise. Educational Leadership, 65(2), 34-39.
Article on effort focus: Dweck, C.S. (2010). Even geniuses work hard. Educational Leadership, 68(1), 16-2-.
The official mindset website.
What Kids Can Do (WKCD) has put together a guide to growth mindset and why it matters. The webpage provides a brief explanation, short videos and resources about mindset that are useful for adolescent students, teachers, and parents.
2. Brain Development
The Brainology Program is an interactive online program that teaches students about how to grow their brains.
Resources, lessons, and materials for science teachers (grades 5-12) about the brain.
Teenagers’ guide to their brain.
3. Addressing Stereotype Threat
The Harvard Project Implicit provides self tests to unearth implicit attitudes. The gender and science test is recommended.
Website created by two social psychologists about reducing stereotype threat provides basic information and research based suggestions for reducing stereotype threat.
4. Coping Skills
Mindfulness exercises to help students manage stress as part of improving.
See also Chapter 10 Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques.
5. Resources for Parents
Preview the article with tips for parents on boosting their children’s success: Dweck. C.S. (2008). The secret to raising smart kids. Scientific American, 36-43.
6. General Resources
A very comprehensive review of non-cognitive factors related to academic success. Academic mindsets are discussed in Chapter 2 of this review.
7. Videos about Ability Beliefs
Links to videos about concepts and strategies described in this chapter are found on this page. To learn more about the scientists and teachers featured in these videos, click here where you can read a description and/or select a link to find all video clips of them.
Regina shares how she overcame doubts about entering the physics field that were caused by an older male professor who told her women should not do physics.
Georgia discusses the value of hard work and effort for learning math and science, noting that as a student she didn’t always realize that her effort would pay off in the end.
Angela discusses the value of effort for her learning.
Teachers and Classrooms
Steve talks about why he uses mindset theory in his classroom and how important he believes awareness of one’s mindset to be.
Steve and his students talk about what mindset is.
Steve’s students write and send letters to 5th graders about mindset and how the brain works.
A culture of growth and improvement together with support for trying new things is especially engaging for the girls in the vermaculture project.
Mike uses a silly song as a mnemonic strategy to help students and their parents remember different kinds of oak trees and to laugh and have fun while they are learning.