Science Advances: STEM Faculty Who Believe in Fixed Ability Have Less Motivated Students

Results from a recent study show that STEM faculty who believe students’ ability is fixed have larger racial achievement gaps and more demotivated students in their classes, according to data published recently in a paper in Science Advances. The paper by authors Elizabeth A. Canning, Katherine Muenks, Dorainne J. Green, and Mary C. Murphy, looks at results from a longitudinal university-wide sample including 150 STEM professors and more than 15,000 students to see whether STEM professors’ fixed beliefs about intelligence and ability would lead underrepresented racial/ethnic minorities such as Black, Latino, and Native American students to experience lower motivation and underperform relative to their non-stereotyped peers. The study shows that fixed faculty mindset beliefs were more strongly associated with lower course performance among Black, Latino, and Native American students than among White and Asian students. However, the racial achievement gap shrank in courses taught by faculty who endorsed more of a growth mindset.

“This work suggests that faculty mindset beliefs could be an important predictor of future decisions regarding the pursuit of advanced education in specific STEM fields. Future research could test this possibility,” the authors write in the paper.