Growth Mindset and Belonging: The Importance of Perceived Context

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Williams, Christopher, Psychology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Wilson, Timothy, AS-Psychology, University of Virginia

Postsecondary STEM programs pose unique challenges to students’ belonging. Experimental evidence suggests that holding a growth mindset can increase belonging, though the mechanisms are not fully understood. We theorize that the relationship occurs as a function of students’ perceptions of their environment. Mindsets may influence belonging by shaping students’ beliefs about instructors’ and peers’ mindsets, which then globalize to feelings of school trust and belonging. In two studies (total N = 3,040), we developed and tested a novel theoretical model with two diverse samples of STEM undergraduates. We found general support for the model, such that a meaningful proportion of the total effect of personal growth mindset on belonging was explained through pathways of perceived peer mindsets, perceived instructor mindsets, and school trust. Gender moderated the hypothesized relationships in one sample (Study 1), but not the other (Study 2). Discussion centers on model implications for theory and practice, as well as the role of contextual factors in shaping these relationships.

MA (Master of Arts)
belonging, growth mindset
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