Author ORCID Identifier


Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Suazette R. Mooring

Second Advisor

Jack Barbera


In challenging learning contexts like general and organic chemistry, students’ determining factors for persistence or helplessness become more salient in their likelihood of success in the course. Incremental beliefs (or growth mindset) are theorized to result in a series of behaviors that positively influence outcomes. Because of the difficult nature of chemistry as an academic subject, we investigate the role of chemistry mindset as an influencing factor on student outcomes. We propose that chemistry-specific mindset represents a separate construct from intelligence beliefs students hold about other STEM domains for undergraduates and thus should be measured independently. We show that the term “intelligence,” used in typical mindset instruments is broadly defined by undergraduate chemistry students and largely distinct from “chemistry intelligence.” Student definitions of chemistry intelligence were used to create an instrument for measuring chemistry-specific mindset. The normality of response distributions is greatly improved in the final version and confirmatory factor analysis supports a one-factor mindset model with high factor loadings across all items. The instrument has been used to show external validity through correlations of chemistry mindset with chemistry course grades, self-efficacy, and achievement goals. Student experiences with challenge were characterized, as they interact with mindset, to gather validity evidence of claims relating mindset to persistence. A multiple-case analysis was conducted to produce a qualitative description for the domain and context-specific characteristics of the various mindset perspectives of undergraduate students toward chemistry. Evidence for multiple growth, fixed, and middle mindsets were uncovered through examining a combination of data sources collected from a small group of students enrolled in general or organic chemistry. These findings serve as evidence for the impact these beliefs have on achievement behaviors and emphasize the utility of our chemistry-specific mindset instrument for improved fixed mindset detection and student support. This seven-item instrument provides an efficient measurement tool for instructors and researchers to use in determining affective relationships or effects of interventions in undergraduate chemistry courses.


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