Researcher Wins $1.4 Million Grant to Help Students Improve Motivation for Academic Achievement

Matthew McGlone, associate professor of communication studies at The University of Texas at Austin, and a team of researchers has been awarded $1.4 million from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education, to help eighth and ninth grade students improve their motivation for academic achievement via novel and engaging activities.

This project builds on existing research showing that students' academic performance improves when they are taught that intelligence is malleable and that people can get smarter in response to intellectual effort.

McGlone's co-principal investigators on the project are Joshua Aronson, associate professor of psychology at New York University, and Jennifer Mangels, associate professor of psychology at Baruch College.

IES is a branch of the U.S. Department of Education that funds research studies on ways to improve academic achievement.

McGlone's research has focused on instructional communication, particularly the strategies educators can use to promote positive identity development in students. He also has explored the use of computer games to measure and modify children's belief in gender stereotypes.

In this project, researchers will develop and refine two unique intervention approaches engaging fiction and interactive media. They will work with young adult author Alison Pollet to create a narrative that teaches students about the malleability of intelligence. The story will be presented in an interactive computer format and will include images from intelligence research, such as neurons, dendrites and MRI scans revealing increased dendrite branching following learning.

The second intervention, a role-playing computer simulation, will be created in the Internet-based virtual environment Teen Second Life. The simulation will be designed and implemented by the Educators Coop, a non-profit organization specializing in educational programming for virtual environments, led by Leslie Jarmon and Joe Sanchez of The University of Texas at Austin.

The research results will be used to develop teacher-friendly material for use with middle and early high school students from diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds.

To learn more about McGlone's research, read the feature story: "Testing Identity: Researcher develops tools to remedy race, gender gaps in standardized test performance."