Interest has been growing in the role of students' attitudes, beliefs, and dispositions as key factors that can support or inhibit student success. A large body of emerging evidence, including multiple randomized controlled trials, shows that interventions that target academic mindsets, attitudes, and beliefs about the nature of ability and the payoff to effort can lead to improved academic outcomes through changes in student disposition toward academic work and increased academic effort. The evidence and theory on academic mindsets and outcomes suggest an important role for teachers and peers in generating, supporting, and reinforcing these attitudes and beliefs, thereby facilitating improved academic outcomes, or, conversely, in undermining these attitudes and beliefs, thereby disrupting students' academic progress. However, little is known about the distribution of these attitudes and beliefs among students and teachers in different academic contexts, such as schools with different average academic achievement levels or schools with students with different demographic characteristics. With this in mind Regional Educational Laboratory West, in collaboration with Nevada's Clark County School District, collected and analyzed survey data from students and teachers throughout the district on attitudes, beliefs, and dispositions toward academic mindsets. This study focused on measures of three constructs: growth mindset (believing in the malleability of ability and payoffs from student academic effort), performance avoidance (hiding one's effort or refraining from making an effort due to concerns of failure or embarrassment), and academic behaviors (such as completing homework and participating in class). Most students reported beliefs that are consistent with a growth mindset. Most students reported that they engage in behaviors that support academic achievement at least "most of the time" and that it was either "not at all true" or "a little true" that they engaged in performance avoidance in a typical class. However, student measures of growth mindset varied significantly by grade level, prior academic achievement, English learner status, and race/ethnicity. Growth mindset scores were 0.2-0.8 standard deviation lower for students with lower prior academic achievement, English learner students, and Black students than for their higher achieving, non-English learner, and White counterparts. Performance avoidance scores were higher for students with lower prior academic achievement, English learner students, and Black students. And growth mindset scores and academic behaviors scores were lower for students in lower achieving schools and schools with higher percentages of English learner students and economically disadvantaged students. Though the differences (0.1-0.2 standard deviation) were not as large as the differences associated with prior academic achievement and English learner status, growth mindset, performance avoidance, and academic behaviors scores also varied by grade level; growth mindset scores and academic behaviors scores were lower for students at higher grade levels while performance avoidance scores were higher. A majority of teachers also reported beliefs about the malleability of their students' academic abilities that were consistent with a growth mindset. In fact, teachers' growth mindset scores were significantly higher than students' scores. Moreover, teachers' scores did not vary significantly by the average academic achievement or percentage of English learner students or economically disadvantaged students in the school. However, teachers' growth mindset scores were lower for teachers at higher grade levels than for teachers at lower grade levels. The presence of significant differences in students' self-reported beliefs and behaviors by prior academic achievement, English learner status, and race/ethnicity is consistent with the hypothesis that attitudes and beliefs about the nature of academic ability and about the payoff for academic effort play a role in disparities among students in academic achievement. The finding of such differences is also consistent with the hypothesis that students' academic experiences shape their academic beliefs and behaviors. Further research using longitudinal data and designs capable of isolating causality are necessary to understand the relationship between academic mindsets and academic outcomes. Because previous research has shown that interventions targeting academic mindsets have positive effects on academic achievement, the disparities in academic mindsets across student subgroups suggest that these beliefs may be important targets for interventions. They also suggest that intervening to support the development of a growth mindset could be particularly useful for English learner students, as well as for low-achieving, Black, and Hispanic students. The presence of significant differences in growth mindset, performance avoidance, and academic behaviors across schools with different average academic achievement and schools with different percentages of economically disadvantaged students suggests that school context and its relationship to students' academic mindsets and behaviors may be an important area for further investigation. The following are appended: (1) Survey constructs; (2) Survey response rates; (3) Clark County School District survey sampling strategy; (4) Pairwise significance tests; and (5) Confirmatory factor analysis.
Randomized Control Trials