Changes in implicit theories of ability in biology and dropout from STEM majors: A latent growth curve approach

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Abstract

This longitudinal study was designed to investigate the associations between changes in implicit theories of ability in biology and college students' dropout from STEM majors. We modeled the one-year growth patterns of entity and incremental beliefs about ability in biology with 4 time points of self-reported data and two covariates-biology domain knowledge and inference making and gateway course grade, and predicted STEM dropout with the growth trajectories of implicit theories. Results indicated that students' entity beliefs increased, while incremental beliefs decreased over time, which provides support for the changeability of implicit beliefs over a short period of time. The growth of incremental beliefs was directly associated with STEM dropout above and beyond biology course grade and biology domain knowledge and inference making. Low intercept and negative slope of incremental beliefs predicted leaving STEM majors; however, the decline of entity beliefs did not have significant effects on dropout. Interestingly, the effect of biology domain knowledge and inference making on STEM dropout was mediated by biology course grade and incremental beliefs. The findings imply the importance of monitoring changes in students' implicit beliefs and gateway course achievement in order to better understand and promote STEM retention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-247
Number of pages15
JournalContemporary Educational Psychology
Volume39
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2014
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Gateway course achievement
  • Implicit theories
  • Latent growth curve modeling
  • STEM retention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Education

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