Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Henning, Mary Beth

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Literacy and Elementary Education


Educational psychology; Secondary education; Gifted teenagers--Education (Secondary); Classroom management; Academic achievement; Self-actualization (Psychology) in adolescence; Achievement motivation in adolescence


Research has shown that many students harbor the belief that intelligence is an immutable characteristic, incapable of growth via effort (Dweck, 2000). Reasons for such a debilitating self-theory of intelligence include implicit and explicit cues from parents or teachers, experiences in educational settings that emphasize competition or normative comparisons, and the threat of confirming stereotypes about intellectual limitations (Aronson, Good, & Inzlicht, 2003). A quasi-experimental study was performed to compare two interventions to manipulate the self-theories of upper level high school students. Students in both interventions were invited to research mindset, learn facets of neurophysiology, and become familiar with the effects of personal habits on the learning process. One group wrote research term papers on the three topics. A second group addressed the topics in pen pal letters to fifth-grade students meant to offer informed advice about learning (i.e., the capacity to become "smarter") to the younger students. Results showed that while neither was statistically superior in manipulating mindset or teaching neurophysiology, students in both interventions showed significant increases in their belief in the malleability of intelligence, their inclination to adopt mastery goals, and their ability to suppress test anxiety. The pen pal intervention generated higher levels of student enthusiasm for the activity and engagement in it. It was noted that the pen pal intervention offered the additional advantage of conveying the powerful message of internal locus of control inherent to a growth mindset to a broader audience via delivery of the letters to fifth-grade students. Results are discussed in terms of their implications for teaching practices, teacher preparation, and future research.


Advisors: Mary Beth Henning; Jennifer Schmidt.||Committee members: Linda O'Neill; Lee Shumow.


224 pages




Northern Illinois University

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