Undergraduate student perceptions of instructor mindset and academic performance: A motivational climate theory perspective

Matthew Kim, Jaeyun Han, Kristen N. Buford, Jennifer L. Osterhage, Ellen Usher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Academic achievement depends not only on learners’ skill but also the psychological factors that arise during learning, such as the belief that intelligence improves with effort—a growth mindset. In addition to being guided by their own beliefs, students might use information present in their learning environments to imagine what their instructors believe about students’ abilities, and alter their engagement accordingly. The present study applies motivational climate theory to examine the association between individual and shared student perceptions of instructors’ ability mindset on their academic performance. Data from 5,057 undergraduate students and 94 instructors in a public research university in the United States, across academic disciplines and instructional modalities, revealed that students’ individual and aggregated perceptions of their instructors’ mindset, but not their own mindset or instructors’ self-reported mindset, were associated with final grades. Additionally, a moderation analysis revealed that the association between aggregated perceptions of students’ perceptions of their instructors’ fixed mindset and course performance was significant in STEM courses but not in non-STEM courses, possibly reflecting meaningful differences in disciplinary norms and traditions that could shape ability mindset. Shifting instructors’ framing about ability, classroom practices, and students’ understanding and interpretation of these environmental signals, could improve achievement outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102280
JournalContemporary Educational Psychology
StatePublished - Jun 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 Elsevier Inc.


  • Academic achievement
  • Growth mindset
  • Higher education
  • Instructor beliefs
  • Situational cues
  • Student perceptions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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