TOPIC 3: Self-Efficacy, Belief Systems, and Social Context and Learning

Monday, July 18th: 9:00 am – 12:30 pm 

Moderator: Masha Komolova


  • Delaram Totonchi, Research Scientist, Motivate Lab, University of Virginia
  • Joshua Aronson, Associate Professor of Applied Psychology, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York University

Dr. Totonchi’s scholarship reflects an intersection of three main interests: (a) understanding how students’ beliefs in their abilities to learn affect their achievement and persistence; (b) examining the socio-cultural and contextual factors that impact the well-being and academic adjustment of students from traditionally underrepresented groups; and, (c) improving measurement practices in educational and social psychology.

Dr. Aronson directs the Mindful Education Lab at the NYU, a group of psychologists and neuroscientists dedicated to using research to improve the psychological functioning and learning of children confronted with stress. He is internationally recognized for his pioneering research on stereotype threat and growth mindset.


9:009:15Greetings and check-in with Faculty Fellows 
9:3010:15Presentation by Delaram Totonchi
10:3011:15Presentation by Joshua Aronson
11:3012:15Round table discussion with all participants
12:1512:30Wrap up


Dr. Joshua Aronson and Dr. Delaram Totonchi will discuss the role of personal and environmental factors on student learning. They will focus on the belief systems and mindsets that promote or hinder the learning process, particularly in STEM disciplines. The presenters will also discuss specific strategies the educators can use to help students develop the mindsets that promote their personal and academic growth.


  • The role of both person and the situation
  • Objective environmental influences (e.g., differential treatment)
  • Social identity and subjective experiences (e.g., identity threat) 
  • Beliefs (e.g., self-efficacy) and mindsets (e.g., threat, growth, curiosity, etc.), and their consequences for learning outcomes
  • Social motives and social context, and their implications for learning
  • Teachers’ strategies for reducing threat and promoting growth

Key questions:

  1. What are some environmental constraints that interfere with student learning?
  2. What are some personal obstacles that interfere with student motivation and learning?
  3. What are particular challenges for students’ self-efficacy beliefs regarding their performance in STEM?
  4. How do educators’ own beliefs impact their students’ success in STEM disciplines?
  5. How do peers impact student motivation and learning?

Reading for Topic 3:

American Psychological Association, Coalition for Psychology in Schools and Education (2015). Top 20 principles from psychology for preK–12 teaching and learning. Retrieved from http://

Tuesday, July 19th: 9:00 am – 12:30 pm

Moderators: Masha Komolova and Janice Walters

Pedagogy Workshop:

On Friday, the Fellows and team will continue to reflect on Topic 3 and will participate in a pedagogy workshop facilitated by Institute co-directors Komolova and Walters. Small groups will consider resources, and how they can be incorporated in the course syllabi, assignments, and other interventions.

Key Questions:

  1. What are some environmental and individual factors that impact student learning, particularly in STEM disciplines?
  2. How can we improve students’ awareness of the factors that affect their learning?
  3. How can we assess students’ belief systems and mindsets?
  4. How can we help students improve their self-efficacy and promote growth mindsets, both in the classroom and in the conversations about their education in general?
  5. How can we improve peer environments that are motivating and helpful? What kinds of assignments can we create to increase student interaction with each other?


9:009:15Greetings and check-in with Faculty Fellows 
9:1510:15Reviewing the previous day’s topics and discussing key questions
10:3010:45In small groups, design interventions (in courses/syllabi) that are helpful for improving self-efficacy, promoting student growth mindset, and increasing peer interaction
10:4511:15Discussing syllabi in the large group
11:3012:00In small groups, incorporate feedback from the large group into the previously designed interventions
12:0012:30General discussion/wrapping up

Bring your syllabus. Think about some of the students’ beliefs that hinder their ability to succeed in your courses, and how your course may help them to overcome these obstacles. How can you implement practices into your course that increase students’ self-efficacy and promote growth mindset?

Reading for Topic 3:

Canning, E.A., Ozier, E., Williams, H.E., AlRasheed, R., & Murphy, M.C. (2022). Professors who signal a fixed mindset undermine women’s performance in STEM. Social Psychology and Personality Science, 13(5), 927-937.