"These implicit theories refer to the two different assumptions people may make about the malleability of personal attributes; they may believe that a highly valued personal attribute, such as intelligence or morality, is a fixed, nonmalleable trait-like entity (entity theory), or they may believe that the attribute is a malleable quality that can be changed and developed (incremental theory)" (p. 267).
An investigation into the self-theories of seventh-grade math students by Blackwell, Trzesniewski, and Dweck found that “the belief that intelligence is malleable (incremental theory) predicted an upward trajectory in grades...while a belief that intelligence is fixed (entity theory) predicted a flat trajectory” (p. 246). Dweck and Molden further reflect that “holding an incremental theory of intelligence...was associated with holding strong learning goals” (p. 124), as well as being associated with student beliefs about effort, reactions to difficulties, strategies to overcoming setbacks, and overall competence in the form of final grades (pp. 124–125). Studies by Aronson, Fried, and Good and Blackwell, et al. also show that short interventions “yield encouraging changes” (Dweck and Molden, p. 136).
In addition to self-theories, goal orientation (Elliot, 2005) may help us understand how students learn music theory and how their motivation and engagement affect that learning. Many of the studies discussed involve mathematics pedagogy, not music theory pedagogy, but VanHandel argues that “if performance in mathematics is a predicting factor in success in written music theory classes, there may be a cognitive link between the abstract and systematic processes in mathematics and those in music” (p. 210). Additional empirical evidence from Jones and Bergee show a correlation between success in first-year music theory and high school class rank and ACT math scores.