As students enter middle school, their academic achievement and engagement frequently declines. Previous research has found that academic outcomes around the transition to middle school are related to, and might even be driven by, academic mindsets, including growth mindsets (such as beliefs about the malleability of academic ability and the payoff to effort) and performance avoidance (fears of failure and the desire to avoid academic effort), and resulting academic behaviors (such as completing homework). This study examined the relationship between 2016/17 grade 5 student responses to a school district survey on levels of academic mindsets and behaviors and the predicted probability of earning a GPA below 2.0 at the end of the first semester of grade 6 (the first year of middle school) in 2017/18. The study found that grade 5 students who reported high levels of growth mindset and academic behavior and low levels of performance avoidance had a lower predicted probability of having a GPA below 2.0 in the first semester of grade 6. After student scores on grade 5 state standardized math and English language arts achievement exams were accounted for, levels of academic mindsets and behaviors among grade 5 students with scores at or above the district median did not predict meaningful differences in the probability of having a GPA below 2.0 in the first semester of grade 6. However, among grade 5 students with prior academic achievement below the district median, students who reported high levels of growth mindset and academic behaviors and low levels of performance avoidance had a lower predicted probability of having a GPA below 2.0. in the first semester of grade 6, even after differences in individual grade 5 prior academic achievement were accounted for. These patterns were essentially the same for all racial/ethnic groups as well as for both English learner students and non–English learner students. Given these findings, education stakeholders might consider incorporating supports for positive academic mindsets and behaviors as one strategy for preparing students for and supporting them through the transition to middle school, particularly for low-achieving students.
ERIC DescriptorsAcademic Achievement, Academic Persistence, Achievement Gap, Elementary School Students, Emotional Development, Intervention, Middle School Students, Social Emotional Learning, Student Behavior
West | Publication Type: Descriptive Study | Publication
Date: October 2021