Microclimates in the classroom: Goal structures and teacher mindsets
Background to the study
This research focuses on 'motivational microclimates', shaped by student perceptions of goal structures and teacher mindsets. These microclimates have a significant impact on academic outcomes. The researchers focused on two key areas: the perceived goal structures of a course and the perceived mindset of teachers.
Four dimensions of students' microclimates
The researchers examined the following four dimensions of student microclimates:
|Goal structures||Perceiced teacher mindsets|
Mastery goal structure
A focus on learning and improvement, where mistakes are seen as learning opportunities.
Growth Mindset (Teacher)
A belief in the development of intelligence through effort and learning.
Performance goal structure
Focused on demonstrating competence, often resulting in competition and emphasis on talent.
Fixed Mindset (Teacher)
The perception that the teacher believes in unchanging intelligence.
Study 1: analysis of motivational microclimates
This study was conducted with a sample of 231 students. The focus was on analyzing the classroom consensus on the perceived mastery and performance goal structures, and the perceived mindset of the teacher. The researchers examined the correlations between these aspects and how they uniquely predict motivation, sense of belonging, and other factors in students.
The results showed that there was a significant consensus within the class on these motivational climate variables.
- Interestingly, the instructor's perceived fixed mindset was positively associated with students' perceived costs (e.g., time investment, emotional burden) and negatively with the perceived value of the course.
- In contrast, perceived mastery goal structure were positively associated with perceived value and sense of belonging, and negatively with perceived costs.
- Perceived performance goal structure was positively associated with cost and negatively with relatedness.
Study 2: extension of the study
Study 2, with 483 participants, built on the findings of the first study. In this study, the researchers used sophisticated measurement methods to measure the perceived mindsets of the teacher. More variables measuring psychological vulnerability and self-regulatory behavior were also added, as well as additional demographic variables.
The results of this study showed that the four dimensions of the student microclimates were found to be distinct but related. Each of these dimensions was important for the different outcomes, except for self-reported procrastination.
- For example, perceived mastery goal structure was positively associated with expectancy, intrinsic value, performance value, usefulness value, sense of belonging, and self-handicapping, but negatively with cost.
- Perceived performance goal structure was positively associated with cost, evaluative concerns, imposter feelings, fear of help-seeking, and self-handicapping, but negatively with expectancy, intrinsic value, usefulness value, sense of belonging, and final grades.
Summary of findings
- Perceived mastery goal structures were positively associated with student motivation, value, and relatedness.
- Perceived performance goal structures were related to increased psychological vulnerability and negatively associated with students' expectancy and intrinsic value.
- Perceived fixed mindset of teachers was associated with higher perceived costs and lower perceived value of the course by students.
- Teachers' perceived growth mindset was not directly associated with specific student outcomes in the study.
To apply the findings from this study in education, schools and teachers can consider:
- Promoting mastery goal structures: Since perceived mastery goal structures are strongly positively associated with student motivation, value, and relatedness, teachers can develop strategies that emphasize these aspects. This may include focusing on the learning process, personal improvement and understanding of the material, and creating an environment where mistakes are seen as opportunities to learn.
- De-emphasis on performance goal structures: Given the negative association of perceived performance goal structures with student expectations and intrinsic value and its positive relationship with psychological vulnerability, it is important for educators to consider how to reduce performance pressure. One of the ways to do this is to put less emphasis on competition and comparisons between students.
- Attention to Teacher Mindset: Although teachers' perceived growth mindset was not directly related to specific student outcomes in the study, the negative association of teachers' perceived fixed mindset with the perceived value of the course highlights the importance of how teachers express their beliefs about learning and communicate intelligence. It seems to be particularly important to prevent teacher behavior that creates a fixed mindset. (See the bottom section of this checklist).
- Reflection and Training for Teachers: Encourage teachers to reflect on their own mindset and teaching practices. Organize professional development opportunities to develop strategies that promote a more mastery-oriented and less performance-oriented learning environment.