Improving Implicit Beliefs and Expectations in Academic Achievement for Postsecondary Students with Disabilities

Main Article Content

Kelly Bow Tsin Chang


motivation, academic achievement, students with disabilities, implicit beliefs


In this article, the author introduces the sociocognitive theory of implicit theories of intelligence (developed by Carol S. Dweck and her colleagues) to the field of rehabilitation, and analyzes disability issues in postsecondary academic achievement within this framework.  This sociocognitive theory highlights the utility of the social model of disability.  People hold two types of implicit beliefs about intelligence.  An entity belief can lead to helplessness and negative self-concepts in the face of failure, because it focuses on labels and stable traits.  An incremental belief leads to greater resilience in the face of failure by focusing on strategy and effort rather than on stable traits.  The value of promoting incremental beliefs about intelligence in youth with disabilities is discussed in light of self-determination training, perception of opportunity, and transition to postsecondary education.  Recommendations are presented for facilitating incremental beliefs in students with disabilities and improving the probability of academic success.

Abstract 149 | PDF Downloads 29 Word Downloads 5 Text Downloads 27


Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C.A. 12101 et seq. (1993).

Aronson, J., & Fried, C. (1998). Reducing stereotype threat and boosting academic achievement of African Americans: The role of conceptions of intelligence. Unpublished manuscript.

Bandura, M., & Dweck, C. S. (1985). The relationship of conceptions of intelligence and achievement goals to achievement-related cognition, affect, and behavior. Unpublished manuscript.

Bell, M., Lysaker, P., & Bryson, G. (2003). A behavioral intervention to improve work performance in schizophrenia: Work behavior inventory feedback. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 18, 43-50.

Benz, M. R., & Halpern, A. S. (1987). Transition services for secondary students with mild disabilities: A statewide perspective. Exceptional Children, 53, 507-514.

Berliner, D. C., & Biddle, B. J. (1996). Standards amidst uncertainty and inequality. The School Administrator, 53(5), 42-47.

Billings, B. L. (1999, April 15-18). Ethnicity and individual differences in achievement goals in kindergarten children (ED 436288). Paper presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Albuquerque, NM.

Burgstahler, S. (2000). Opening doors: Mentoring on the internet. Seattle, Washington: University of Washington.

Burgstahler, S. (2001). A collaborative model to promote career success for students with disabilities. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 16, 209-215.

Burgstahler, S., & Cronheim, D. (2001, Fall). Supporting Peer-Peer and Mentor-Protege Relationships on the Internet. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 34(1), 59-74.

Callahan, M., & Mank, D. (1998). Choice and control of employment for people with disabilities, Paper prepared for The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Self-Determination Initiative.

Catsis, C. T. ( 2002, March). Perception of opportunity for innovation and productivity in relation to subjective well-being of interior design educators at major universities in the United States. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities & Social Sciences, 62(8-A), 2693.

Chang, K. B. T. (2003). A Grounded Theory of the Acquisition of Learning Strategies in College Classrooms. University of Hawaii, Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Conway, M. A., & Chang, K. B. T. (2003). Personnel and Student Perceptions about the Role of the Postsecondary Disability Support Provider. Unpublished manuscript, Honolulu, Hawaii.Deci, E. L., & Chandler, C. L. (1986). The importance of motivation for the future of the LD field. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 19, 587-594.

Deci, E. L., Hodges, R., Peirson, L., & Tomassone, J. (1992). Autonomy and competence as motivational factors in students with learning disabilities and emotional handicaps. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 25, 457-471. Derecho, C. N. (1996, March). Situational and dispositional factors in affective responses to work. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences & Engineering, 56(9-B), 5206.

Diener, C. I., & Dweck, C. S. (1978). An analysis of learned helplessness: Continuous changes in performance, strategy and achievement cognitions following failure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36, 451-462.

Diener, C. I., & Dweck, C. S. (1980). An analysis of learned helplessness: (II) The processing of success. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39, 940-952.

Dunn, C. W., & Veltman, G. C. (1989, October). Addressing the restrictive career maturity patterns of minority youth: A program evaluation. Journal of Multicultural Counseling & Development, 17, 156-164.

Durodoye, B., & Bodley, G. (1997, March). Career development issues for ethnic minority college students. College Student Journal, 31(1), 27-32.

Dweck, C. S. (1975). The role of expectations and attributions in the alleviation of learned helplessness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 31, 674-685.

Dweck, C. S. (1999). Self-theories: Their role in motivation, personality, and development. Philadelphia: Psychology Press.

Dweck, C. S., & Elliot, E. S. (1983). Achievement motivation. In P. Mussen & E. M. Hetherington (Eds.), Handbook of Child Psychology (pp. 643-692). New York: Wiley.

Dweck, C. S., & Leggett, E. L. (1988). A social-cognitive approach to motivation and personality. Psychological Review, 95, 256-273.

Dweck, C. S., & Reppucci, N. D. (1973). Learned helplessness and reinforcement responsibility in children. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 25, 109-116.

Elliot, E. S., & Dweck, C. S. (1988). Goals: An approach to motivation and achievement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 5-12.

Flannery, K. B., Slovic, R., Treasure, T., Ackley, D., & Lucas, F. (2002). Collaboration and partnership to improve employment outcomes. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 17, 207-215.

Han, W. S. (1971, March). Alienation, deviation-proneness, and perception of two types of barriers among rural adolescents. Social Forces, 49, 398-413.

Harlow, L. L., & Newcomb, M. D. (1990, July). Towards a general hierarchical model of meaning and satisfaction in life. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 25, 387-405.

HEATH Resource Center. (1991). Career planning and employment strategies for postsecondary students with disabilities. Retrieved January 2, 2003, from

Henderson, V., & Dweck, C. S. (1990). Motivation and achievement. In S. Feldman & G. Elliott (Eds.), At the threshold: The developing adolescent (308-329). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Hoyt, K. (2001, October). Helping high school students broaden their knowledge of postsecondary education options. Professional School Counseling, 5(1), 6-13.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq. (1997).

Izzo, M., & Lamb, M. (2002). Self-determination and career development: Skills for successful transitions to postsecondary education and employment. Unpublished manuscript, A white paper developed for the National Center on Postsecondary Education Supports at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Available online, at:

Kamins, M. L., & Dweck, C. S. (in press). Person vs. process praise and criticism: Implications for contingent self-worth and coping. Developmental Psychology.

Kerka, S. (2002). Learning disabilities and career development: ERIC.

Kilsby, M. S., Bennert, K., & Beyer, S. (2002). Measuring and reducing acquiescence in vocational profiling procedures for first-time job-seekers with mental retardation. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 17, 287-299.

Kilsby, M. S., & Beyer, S. (2002). Enhancing self-determination in job matching in supported employment for people with learning disabilities: An intervention study. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 17, 125-135.

Ladders of opportunity. (2001). California: California Community Colleges, Sacramento. Office of the Chancellor.

Levy, S. R., & Dweck, C. S. (1996, June). The relation between implicit person theories and beliefs in stereotypes. Paper presented at the Paper presented at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Society, San Francisco, CA.

Lim, W., Plucker, J. A., & Im, K. (2002). We are more alike than we think we are: Implicit theories of intelligence with a Korean sample. Intelligence, 30, 185-208.

Martin, J. E., & Huber-Marshall, L. (1995). Choicemaker: A comprehensive self-determination transition program. Intervention in School and Clinic, 30(3), 147-156.

Mueller, C. M., & Dweck, C. S. (1998). Intelligence praise can undermine motivation and performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 33-52.

National Center for the Study of Postsecondary Educational Supports. (2001). Focus group discussions on supports and barriers in lifelong learning. Honolulu: University of Hawaii at Manoa, Rehabilitation Research and Training Center.

National Council on Disability. (2000, November). Transition and post-school outcomes for youth with disabilities: Closing the gaps to post-secondary education and employment. Washington, D.C.: Social Security Administration.

Robins, R. W., & Pals, J. L. (2002). Implicit self-theories in the academic domain: Implications for goal orientation, attributions, affect, and self-esteem change. Self & Identity, 1(4), 313-336.

Rumrill, P. (1999). Effects of a social competence training program on accommodation request activity, situational self-efficacy, and Americans with Disabilities Act knowledge among employed people with visual impairments and blindness. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 12, 25-31.

Rumrill, P., Roessler, R., Longden, J., & Schuyler, B. (1998). Situational assessment of the accommodation needs of employees with visual impairments and blindness. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 92(1), 42-54.

Sharpe, M. (2003). Project Grad preliminary analysis, Institute on Community Integration. Retrieved June 25, 2003, from

Silvera, D. H., Moe, S. K., & Iversen, P. (2000). The association between implicit theories of personality and the attributional process. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 41, 107-111.

Stipek, D. J. (1996). Motivation and instruction. In D. C. Berliner & R. C. Calfee (Eds.), Handbook of Educational Psychology (pp. 85-113). New York: Simon & Schuster Macmillan.

Stodden, R., Jones, M. A., & Chang, K. B. T. (2002). Services, supports and accommodations for individuals with disabilities: An analysis across secondary education, postsecondary education and employment. Unpublished manuscript, Honolulu, HI.

Stodden, R. A., Conway, M. A., & Chang, K. B. T. (2003). Professional employment for individuals with disabilities. Unpublished manuscript, Honolulu, HI.

U.S. Department of Education, & National Center for Education Statistics. (1999). Students with disabilities in postsecondary education: A profile of preparation, participation, and outcomes (NCES 1999–187). Washington, DC.

The Vocational Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 701 et seq. (1973).

Wagner, M., & Blackorby, J. (1996). Transition from high school to work or college: How special education students fare. The future of children: Special education for students with disabilities, 6(1), 103-120.

Wall, J., Covell, K., & MacIntyre, P. D. (1999, April). Implications of social supports for adolescents' education and career aspirations. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 31(2), 63-71.

Wehmeyer, M. L., & Bolding, N. (2001). Enhanced self-determination of adults with intellectual disability as an outcome of moving to community-based work or living environments. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 45, 371-383.

Whelley, T., Hart, D., & Zafft, C. (2002). Coordination and management of services and supports for individuals with disabilities from secondary to postsecondary education and employment. Unpublished manuscript, Honolulu. HI.

York, R. O., Henley, H. C., & Gamble, D. N. (1985, Fall). Barriers to the advancement of women in social work administration. Journal of Social Service Research, 9(1), 1-15.

Zhao, W., Dweck, C. S., & Mueller, C. (1998). Implicit theories and depression-like responses to failure. Unpublished manuscript.

Zietgert, D. I., Kistner, J. A., Castro, R., & Robertson, B. (2001). Longitudinal study of young children’s responses to challenging achievement situations. Child Development, 72, 609-624.