Mental models of high school success (with Robert Mahlstedt, Pia Pinger and Helene Willadsen)

  • Date: Mar 7, 2024
  • Time: 09:30 AM (Local Time Germany)
  • Speaker: Sonja Settele (University of Cologne and MPI)
  • Location: MPI
  • Room: Ground Floor

We shed light on the mental models of early academic success based on a large sample of Danish
adolescents facing their secondary schooling choice, as well as their parents. We provide evidence
on the quantitative role individuals attribute to past performance signals, gender, and parents' educa-
tion -- factors which objectively have a strong predictive power for success in upper secondary edu-
cation. In addition, we open the black box of those mental models, by providing novel insights into
individuals' subjective reasoning underlying their quantitative beliefs. Preliminary results suggest a
number of key findings: First, adolescents approaching the end of elementary school are qualitatively
aware of the predictive power of past performance signals for future academic success, but quanti-
tatively underestimate the extent of persistence. Second, adolescents are on average aware of the
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higher performance of girls and of children from higher socioeconomic backgrounds, even conditional
on past performance, but there is a substantial amount of heterogeneity in perceptions that relates to
perceived underlying mechanisms. Third, the perceived role of past performance, gender and SES is
highly predictive of the own success prospects of adolescents from different backgrounds, and ulti-
mately of track choices. In ongoing work, we study systematic variation in mental models, as well as
mechanisms and the role of parents.

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