Education is widely seen as the most obvious path to social mobility, so unequal barriers to educational achievement pose an especially serious threat to an equitable and just society. Indeed, because the economic returns from education tend to be greater for the economically disadvantaged, even barriers to educational success that affect all students equally often have an inequality-reinforcing effect. Many societal stakeholders have much to gain from improvements in overall educational achievement and reductions in educational inequality; such improvements would mean a more plentiful and diverse pipeline of skilled labor.
Adolescence is a critical period for the development of the skills and dispositions individuals take with them as they transition into adulthood. The experiences adolescents have in high school condition the opportunities they have in higher education and the labor market later in life. In particular, inequality in adolescents’ high school experiences can reproduce inequality in educational attainment, labor market participation, and wages by race, gender, and family socioeconomic status.
Our interdisciplinary approach combines psychological research on students’ mindsets, motivation, and expectations with sociological research on the structure of learning opportunities within classrooms and schools to gain a better understanding of where and for whom educational interventions are most effective. In new research, we are examining the role that natural language processing and artificial intelligence (AI) can play in coaching educators, managers, and parents to use mindset language more effectively.