Improving general chemistry performance through a growth mindset intervention: selective effects on underrepresented minorities
Women and minorities remain underrepresented in chemistry bachelor's degree attainment in the United States, despite efforts to improve their early chemistry achievement through supplemental academic programs and active-learning approaches. We propose an additional strategy for addressing these disparities: course-based, social-psychological interventions. For example, growth-mindset interventions are designed to support students during challenging academic transitions by encouraging them to view intelligence as a flexible characteristic that can be developed through practice, rather than a fixed ability. Previous research has shown that such interventions can improve the overall performance and persistence of college students, particularly those who belong to underrepresented groups. We report a random-assignment classroom experiment, which implemented a chemistry-specific growth-mindset intervention among first-year college students enrolled in General Chemistry 1. Performance results revealed an achievement gap between underrepresented minority and white students in the control group, but no sex-based gap. Critically, after adjusting for variation in academic preparation, the mindset intervention eliminated this racial-achievement gap. Qualitative analysis of students’ written reflections from the intervention shed light on their experiences of the mindset and control treatments, deepening our understanding of mindset effects. We integrate these results with the mindset and chemical education literatures and discuss the implications for educators seeking to support underrepresented students in their own classrooms.