Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Learning and Technology


Educational Psychology

First Committee Member

Gale M. Sinatra, Co-Chair

Second Committee Member

E. Michael Nussbaum, Co-Chair

Third Committee Member

LeAnn G. Putney

Graduate Faculty Representative

Emily Lin

Number of Pages



This study explored preservice teachers' views of intelligence. Specifically, I was interested in whether preservice teachers believed that intelligence was changeable (incremental) or fixed (entity). Dweck and colleagues found that people view traits like intelligence as either fixed or incremental (Dweck & Leggett, 1988; Dweck, Chiu, & Hong, 1995; Plaks, Grant & Dweck, 2005). Teachers bring both their beliefs and knowledge into the classroom. Views about intelligence affect beliefs about student ability. Teachers' expectations, instructional decisions, teaching strategies, and educational assessment are affected by these beliefs. In order for change to occur, learners must engage deeply (Dole & Sinatra, 1998, Sinatra & Mason, 2008). Change is more likely to occur when implicit theories are brought to light and examined. Interventions that refute prior knowledge and engender reflection have been shown to be facilitative of change (Mason & Gava, 2007). Change is also more likely when the learner engages deeply with the content (Patrick & Pintrich, 2001; Pintrich, Marx & Boyle, 1993; Sinatra & Mason, 2006). This study employed a mixed methods approach to explore preservice teachers' personal and implicit beliefs about intelligence. Participants were randomly assigned to four conditions where they read a refutational text, an alternative text, participated in a structured discussion on intelligence or school uniforms using a prediscussion organizer, or did some combination of these activities. Specifically, Condition 1 participants read a refutational text on intelligence and completed a structured discussion, Condition 2 participants read a refutational text and discussed school uniforms, Condition 3 participants read an alternative text on the brain and had a structured discussion on intelligence, and finally Condition 4 participants read the alternative text and discussed school uniforms.

Refutational texts provide a platform for deep cognitive engagement that may occur when a text directly refutes prior knowledge (Murphy & Mason, 2006). Although refutational texts have been shown to be effective (Hynd, 2003; Guzzetti et al., 1993), only a few studies have tried to increase the effectiveness of refutational texts by combining these texts with other interventions such as discussion (Broughton, Sinatra, & Nussbaum, 2009).

My results did not support my hypothesis that preservice teachers would be primarily fixed in their viewpoints. In fact, participants came to the study with views consistent with an incremental perspective. In this study the most effective educational intervention to increase conceptual change was the combination of refutational text plus structured discussion. The results indicate that preservice teachers' views of intelligence are centered on personal and emotional beliefs rather than theory or empirical evidence. The condition with the most change read the refutation text and discussed intelligence; however, there was also a main effect of text.

From an educational standpoint, this study suggests that refutational texts combined with a structured organizer may be a more effective aid in learning. In particular, the prediscussion organizer may have provided the reflection time and thought organizer necessary to stimulate elaborative processing. Participants in Condition 1 who read the refutational text about intelligence and completed the prediscussion organizer used their individual comments from their organizer as elements within their discussion.

Refutational texts and combining structured discussions has promise as an intervention both in the classroom and online. Strongly held personal views are difficult to dislodge and by having preservice teachers explore their beliefs, it may have a beneficial result later on in their future and challenging careers.


Academic achievement; Conceptual change; Intellect; Learning ability; Perception; Refutational texts; Student teachers


Educational Psychology

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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