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Growth mindset is the belief that intelligence and ability are not fixed, but can be improved over time through effort and the right strategies. In contrast with a culture that reinforces "fixed mindset" beliefs ("I'm just not a math person"), a culture built to encourage a growth mindset can have a huge impact on students' performance and close achievement gaps between students of different backgrounds. Research shows that students — particularly those from structurally disadvantaged backgrounds — perform better when they believe their instructor has a growth mindset about ability.
While the syllabus and course policies outline the concrete rules of a course, many rules and expectations still go unwritten. Students may not fully understand what's expected of a writing or research assignment, or a problem set, and uncertainty about expectations can be extremely draining and distract from learning. This contributes to performance gaps between majority groups and those from structurally disadvantaged backgrounds. Research shows that by making these unwritten rules explicit, particularly when assigning work, instructors can mitigate students’ uncertainty around expectations.
Students may question whether or not they belong in their classroom or school. This uncertainty about belonging is most common among students from structurally disadvantaged groups. Mitigating this belonging worry allows students to focus more completely on learning, improving their performance and helping to close achievement gaps.