Thesis

Becoming the gardeners of their own educational growth: evaluating an intervention designed to cultivate achievement and a growth mindset with seventh grade pre-algebra students

Junior high school continues to be a challenging time academically for adolescent students, particularly in mathematics. Student engagement, motivation and achievement drops significantly during this transitional period (Eccles, 2004; Harter, 1998; Simmons & Blyth, 1987; Watt, 2004; Wigfield, Eccles, Mac Iver, Reuman, & Midgley, 1991; Wigfield, Eccles, & Pintrich, 1996). This thesis examined what was within the teacher's and students' control to help promote achievement and a cultivate a growth mindset in the midst of such obstacles. An original intervention based on growth mindset theory and self-regulated learning strategies was designed by the researcher and implemented by the participating seventh grade pre-algebra teacher. It involved a single period of lower-performing seventh grade pre-algebra students (N=24). This intervention involved one introductory brain training session, where students were taught about the malleability of their brain and about the importance of having a growth mindset. This was followed by students filling out their own Growth Portfolios for the remainder of the trimester. These Growth Portfolios had two parts: 1) a Growth Chart (where students documented their own pre-post formative learning progress of grade level standards on a bar graph) and 2) a Reflection Sheet (where students reflected on their progress and effort and planned a way around obstacles). The entire intervention lasted a trimester, roughly 10 weeks of instruction. Grades and mindset scores were calculated before and after the intervention. A post-intervention semi-structured interview was completed with the participating teacher. Students also filled out a final confidential evaluation of their experiences with the intervention upon completion. This quasi-experimental study used mixed methods. Quantitative data showed that the intervention was statistically significant in increasing student achievement (pre-post overall math grades) and in shifting student mindsets up towards a more growth orientation. Qualitative data revealed that overall the teacher and students both found the intervention to be motivating, helpful, and effective. The growth charts were noted as most impactful, while both agreed that the reflection sheets should have been simplified. Limitations and areas of future study are discussed.

Thesis (M.A., Education (Curriculum and Instruction))--California State University, Sacramento, 2014.

Junior high school continues to be a challenging time academically for adolescent students, particularly in mathematics. Student engagement, motivation and achievement drops significantly during this transitional period (Eccles, 2004; Harter, 1998; Simmons & Blyth, 1987; Watt, 2004; Wigfield, Eccles, Mac Iver, Reuman, & Midgley, 1991; Wigfield, Eccles, & Pintrich, 1996). This thesis examined what was within the teacher's and students' control to help promote achievement and a cultivate a growth mindset in the midst of such obstacles. An original intervention based on growth mindset theory and self-regulated learning strategies was designed by the researcher and implemented by the participating seventh grade pre-algebra teacher. It involved a single period of lower-performing seventh grade pre-algebra students (N=24). This intervention involved one introductory brain training session, where students were taught about the malleability of their brain and about the importance of having a growth mindset. This was followed by students filling out their own Growth Portfolios for the remainder of the trimester. These Growth Portfolios had two parts: 1) a Growth Chart (where students documented their own pre-post formative learning progress of grade level standards on a bar graph) and 2) a Reflection Sheet (where students reflected on their progress and effort and planned a way around obstacles). The entire intervention lasted a trimester, roughly 10 weeks of instruction. Grades and mindset scores were calculated before and after the intervention. A post-intervention semi-structured interview was completed with the participating teacher. Students also filled out a final confidential evaluation of their experiences with the intervention upon completion. This quasi-experimental study used mixed methods. Quantitative data showed that the intervention was statistically significant in increasing student achievement (pre-post overall math grades) and in shifting student mindsets up towards a more growth orientation. Qualitative data revealed that overall the teacher and students both found the intervention to be motivating, helpful, and effective. The growth charts were noted as most impactful, while both agreed that the reflection sheets should have been simplified. Limitations and areas of future study are discussed.

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