Do the Messages Matter? An Investigation of Classroom Messages and College Students’ Personal Theories about Education
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Students hold a number of personal theories about education that influence motivation and achievement in the classroom: theories about their own abilities, knowledge, and the learning process. Therefore, college instructors have a great interest in helping to develop adaptive personal theories in their students. The current studies investigated whether specific messages that instructors send in college classroom might serve as a mechanism of personal theory development. Across 2 studies, 17 college instructors and 401 students completed surveys assessing their personal theories about education at the beginning and end of college courses. Students and instructors reported hearing and sending many messages in the classroom, including instructor help messages, conciliatory messages, uncertainty in the field messages, differential ability messages and generalized positive and negative feedback. Between-class and within-class differences in message reports were associated with students’ personal theories at the end of their courses, controlling for initial personal theories. Students’ initial personal theories were also related to the messages students reported hearing. The findings demonstrate the utility of assessing non-content messages in college classrooms as potential mechanisms for changing students’ personal theories in college. Implications for research and practice are discussed.
DepartmentPsychology and Neuroscience
Theories of intelligence
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