Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Kay A. Keiser


Due to growing economic inequality and the increase of child poverty rates within the U.S., teachers today are more likely to work with students and families with increasingly complex and diverse economic needs. This study examines the significance of the relationship between educators’ awareness of poverty, perceptions of economic inequality, and mindset about talent and intelligence. The participants (N = 71) were adult students attending a Midwestern metropolitan public university’s summer educational leadership graduate course. Survey results revealed that only two of the 71 study participants had a growth mindset. Individuals with a growth mindset generally believe that through effort, talent and intelligence can increase. However, 68% of the participants in this research study had a fixed mindset (n = 48), and 21 individuals had neither a growth nor a fixed mindset. Female participants (n = 46, M = 4.60, SD = .86) had statistically significant overall mindset (MS) scores (t (68) = 2.03, p = .05, d = 0.49) than males (n = 24, M = 4.23, SD = .65) in the study. In addition, participant scores were relatively high as measured on the Perceptions of Economic Inequality (PEI) survey, indicating there was solid agreement among many in the study to statements such as; “many people are disadvantaged because of their background” (M = 3.83, SD = 0.81). Female participants again had higher PEI scores on two of seven items (p < .01). Yet, there was no significant relationship between participants’ Poverty Awareness Quiz (PAQ) scores and their Mindset (MS) or between their PEI and their MS. There was also no significant relationship found between where participants work and live and their MS, PEI, or PAQ. Results support the advantages of broader hiring and college recruitment strategies to include more individuals from diverse backgrounds and experiences in order to build: awareness of poverty, understanding of barriers to economic inequality, and a growth mindset about intelligence and talent. Study conclusions also consider the influence of standards and high-stakes testing, life experience, and social justice pedagogy on teachers, students, and the current educational culture.


A Dissertation Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate College of the University of Nebraska in Partial Fulfillment of Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Education. Copyright 2014 Cindy B. Copich.

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