Educators’ Beliefs About Students’ Socioeconomic Backgrounds as a Pathway for Supporting Motivation

  • David M. Silverman (Creator)
  • Ivan A. Hernandez (Creator)
  • Mesmin P Destin (Creator)



Students’ understandings of their socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds have important implications for their motivation, achievement, and the emergence of SES-based educational disparities. Educators’ beliefs about students’ backgrounds likely play a meaningful role in shaping these understandings and, thus, may represent an important opportunity to support students from lower-SES backgrounds. We first experimentally demonstrate that educators can be encouraged to adopt background-specific strengths beliefs—which view students’ lower-SES backgrounds as potential sources of unique and beneficial strengths (NStudy 1 = 125). Subsequently, we find that exposure to educators who communicate background-specific strengths beliefs positively influences the motivation and academic persistence of students, particularly those from lower-SES backgrounds (NStudy 2 = 256; NStudy 3 = 276). Furthermore, lower-SES students’ own beliefs about their backgrounds mediated these effects. Altogether, our work contributes to social-psychological theory and practice regarding how key societal contexts can promote equity through identity-based processes.
Date made available2021
PublisherSAGE Journals

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