Teacher mindsets: How educators’ perspectives shape student success

By Craig Wacker and Lynn Olson

Teachers play a central role in these social and emotional dimensions of student learning. Through the messages they send and the experiences they provide in classrooms, teachers shape students’ psychological experiences of schooling, their motivation to learn, and their achievement levels, a growing body of research reveals.1 While teacher-student relationships are often characterized as the “soft” side of schooling, in fact they are foundational to student success, especially for students who have been traditionally underserved by public schools.2 But the education sector has largely neglected the teacher side of the social-emotional learning equation.

This report explores the critical importance of “teacher mindsets,” or teachers’ attitudes, beliefs, and practices, in fortifying students’ investment in learning. “Student- facing interventions may not work if the school ecosystem does not support them,” says Thomas S. Dee, an economist at Stanford University who has studied the effects of teacher beliefs and biases on student learning.
“In contrast, when you change teacher practice, you are simultaneously influencing students and changing the entire educational context.”

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