Growth mindset is the belief that we can grow our intelligence by working hard at it and the idea has attracted a lot of interest in the education world in recent years. There have been best-selling books and many magazine and newspaper articles written about the power of a growth mindset.
In a recent national survey*, nearly all (98 percent) of 600 K-12 teachers said they think that a growth mindset improves their own teaching and helps their students learn. However, only 20% reported confidence in actually being able to help their students develop a growth mindset. This disparity highlights a need for additional research and development of growth-mindset based interventions, as well as research to understand how to best optimize implementation and outcomes.
For more than a decade, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) has supported research on growth mindset. This includes a set of basic research studies to test a theory about growth mindset, an R&D project to build a technology-based growth mindset intervention, and an efficacy study to evaluate the impact of that intervention.
With a 2002 award from the IES Cognition and Student Learning Program (as well as grants from private foundations), researchers at Columbia and Stanford Universities conducted basic research to test and grow the growth mindset theory. This research provided a foundation for future R&D to develop school-based interventions focusing on applying growth mindset to student learning.
With a 2010 award from the ED/IES SBIR program, small business firm Mindset Works developed a web-based intervention to support teachers and grade 5 to 9 students in applying a growth mindset to teaching and learning. The Brainology intervention (pictured below) includes 20 animated interactive lessons and classroom activities for students on how the brain works and how it can become smarter and stronger through practice and learning. The intervention also teaches students specific neuroscience-based strategies to enhance attention, engagement, learning, and memory, and to manage negative emotions.
Brainology includes support materials for teachers to help them integrate the program and growth mindset concepts more generally into their daily activities at school. It is currently being used in hundreds of schools around the country.
And through a 2015 award
from the Social and Behavioral Context for Academic Learning Program
, researchers are now studying the efficacy of Brainology
to improve students’ growth mindset and academic learning. In this four-year study, sixth- and seventh-grade science teachers are randomly assigned to either implement the program along with their school’s regular science curriculum or continue with the regular science curriculum alone. Impacts of the growth mindset program on student mindsets and achievement (grades and test scores) are being measured in the early spring of the implementation year and in the fall of the following school year.
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Written by Emily Doolittle, NCER’s team lead for Social and Behavioral Research, and Ed Metz, ED/IES SBIR Program Manager
* - The survey indicates that growth mindset is of high interest to the general public and the education community. However, the Institute of Education Sciences was not involved in this survey and has not reviewed the methodology or results.