Student Experience Research Network Blog

Recent research has shown the benefits of fostering non-cognitive skills in students. But how are educators able to aid the development process? A study of 6th-9th grade students by Mindset Scholar Ron Ferguson and colleagues (summarized in this blog post) found that certain teacher behaviors lead to positive non-cognitive outcomes, such as fostering a growth mindset or adopting mastery goals.

A new study published in a Mathematica Policy Research working paper reports similar results with younger students. This study, led by David Blazar and Matthew Kraft, focused on teacher effects on academic behaviors and mindsets among 4th-5th grade math students. The main finding from this research was that teachers could have large effects on student behavior in class, math efficacy, and self-reported happiness in math class. However, the researchers did not observe a strong correlation between teachers’ effectiveness in promoting achievement outcomes (e.g., students’ scores on a math test) and ‘non-tested’ outcomes (e.g., students’ self-efficacy in math). In other words, the researchers explain, “Together, these results indicate that teachers have meaningful impacts on both test scores and non-tested outcomes, but that individual teachers often are not equally effective at improving all measures.” This echoes the findings in Ferguson et al.’s study.

Blazar and Kraft also found that certain teacher practices had strong relationships with specific student outcomes. For example, social emotional support from teachers was strongly related to both self-efficacy in math class and self-reported happiness in math class. Meanwhile, classroom organization had a positive relationship with self-reported behavior but a negative relationship with reported happiness.

This study lends additional support to the idea that providing training for teachers to develop practices that foster academic behaviors and learning mindsets is an important complement to training on practices that more strongly predict tested academic outcomes.

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