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How do able male students’ implicit theories of intelligence impact on their engagement with challenging tasks? An exploratory case study.

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posted on 2023-08-30, 14:47 authored by Louise Brown
This study explores the impact of implicit theories of intelligence held by academically able, male students on their levels of engagement with challenging tasks. In my workplace, an academy grammar school, levels of challenge in lessons were raised to engage and motivate students, and increase academic attainment. However, some students responded negatively to the challenging tasks and underachieved in assessments. Using the model of Implicit Theories of Intelligence Mind-Sets as a framework, the aim of this study was to elucidate students’ intrinsic beliefs, values and conceptualisations about challenge, effort and intelligence. This new knowledge was used to inform school policy and develop classroom practice that supports students to positively engage with challenge. An interpretivist methodology was adopted and case study design used to investigate the research question. Twenty-one Year Eleven students in a GCSE Biology class completed a questionnaire to assign them as fixed or growth mind-set theorists. The students’ learning behaviours were video-recorded during two consecutive Biology lessons whilst they completed a challenging problem-solving task. Six students (three fixed and three growth theorists) were selected for interview. During the video-stimulated, semi-structured interviews, students recalled their experiences working on the challenging task and related these to their conceptualisations of intelligence. A more diverse pattern of mind-sets, learning behaviours, goals and concepts of intelligence was found than is predicted by the model. Five students combined fixed and growth mind-set associated beliefs in their conceptualisations of intelligence. Within the boundaries of the case study, the findings did not support a causal relationship between mind-set and response to the challenging task. An alternative framework of understanding that included negative emotional responses to challenge, perceived value of effort within the school and concept of scientific knowledge was constructed to characterise factors raised by the students who responded helplessly in the face of difficulty.



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