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Social and Behavioral Context for Academic Learning


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FY Awards

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Efficacy of a Growth Mindset Intervention to Increase Student Success

Year: 2015
Name of Institution:
Mindset Works, LLC
Goal: Efficacy and Replication
Principal Investigator:
Sorich Blackwell, Lisa
Award Amount: $3,499,850
Award Period: 4 years (7/1/2015-6/30/2019)
Award Number: R305A150142


Co-Principal Investigator: Sylvia Rodriguez

Purpose: Although adolescents often disengage from school as coursework becomes more challenging, the development of a growth mindset—the idea that intellectual ability can grow through learning and effort—holds great promise for keeping middle school students engaged and motivated in school. The purpose of this project is to test whether the Brainology™ Growth Mindset Induction Curriculum for Students, a commercially available online program that was developed in part with support from a 2010 IES SBIR FastTrack Award (Growth Mindset Learning Platform for Educators and Students: Supporting Academic Motivation and Achievement through an Integrated Online Platform), can foster a growth mindset in adolescent students. Brainology™ 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 program 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.

Project Activities: Over three academic school years, researchers will randomly assign sixth and seventh grade science teachers to implement the Brainology™ program along with the regular science curriculum or to continue with the regular science curriculum alone. Impacts of the program on student mindsets and achievement (grades and test scores) will be assessed in the early spring of the implementation year and in the fall of the following school year.

Products: Researchers will generate evidence of the efficacy of the Brainology™ Growth Mindset Induction Curriculum for Students to improve sixth and seventh grade students' growth mindset, motivation, engagement, and achievement in school. In addition, the research team will produce peer-reviewed publications.

Structured Abstract

Setting: Participating schools are located in New York and California.

Sample: Study participants include about 60 teachers who teach at least one sixth or seventh grade science class and approximately 2,400 sixth and seventh graders across 15 middle schools.

Intervention: The Brainology™ Growth Mindset Induction Curriculum for Students is designed to be implemented in classrooms. The online program is made up of four 35-minute units: Attention and Concentration; Managing Stress and Pressure; Mastering New Learning; and Building Long-Term Knowledge and Skills. The program uses interactive animations, resources, and exercises to address common challenges in school (e.g., feeling anxious about an upcoming test) to help students learn how the brain works and how it can grow stronger with effort. The program also describes specific strategies that can be used to develop intellectual capacity based on the way the brain learns. Classroom activities such as discussions, reflective writing, and formative self-assessments provide students with opportunities to practice what they have learned. Teachers are supported in their implementation of Brainology™ through training videos that review the concepts and strategies taught in Brainology™, a curriculum guide, and a dashboard with real-time data on student progress (both individual and classroom-aggregate) in terms of units completed, written reflections, and self-assessments.

Research Design and Methods: In each of three years, researchers will randomly assign 20 sixth or seventh grade science teachers across 5 schools (60 teachers across 15 schools over three years) by school to implement the Brainology™ curriculum in addition to their typical instruction in their sixth or seventh grade science class (treatment) or to follow the standard science curriculum in place at their school (control). Teachers randomly assigned to implement Brainology™ will do so in the fall semester of the school year for a period of approximately 10 weeks. In both conditions, teachers and students will complete a baseline survey of their mindset-related beliefs, goals, and attitudes, and teachers will rate students' mastery-oriented behavior. Implementation of Brainology™ is monitored through teacher logs and surveys and student reflections, inventories, and program ratings. Early in the spring semester of the first school year, and in the fall of the following school year, student outcome measures are collected in both conditions.

Control Condition: In the control condition, students experience standard science classroom practices in place at their school.

Key Measures: Student motivational beliefs are assessed using the Theory of Intelligence survey, the Patterns of Adaptive Learning Survey (PALS), and researcher-developed measures of beliefs about effort and attitudes toward science. Student motivational behavior is assessed using teacher ratings of student mastery-oriented behavior and observations of student behavior in an effort and task choice activity. Student achievement is assessed using overall GPA and report card grades in four core subjects (math, English Language Arts, science, and social studies), as well as state achievement test scores in math and English Language Arts. The potential moderating effect of teachers' own mindsets (Theory of Intelligence survey) and classroom instructional practices (via student surveys and structured classroom observations) will also be measured.

Data Analytic Strategy: Researchers will use two-level multilevel models to account for student nesting within teachers to assess the impact of Brainology™ on each set of student outcomes (achievement, beliefs, and behavior). The team will use multilevel mediation models to determine whether student beliefs and behavior mediate the impact of Brainology™ on student achievement. Finally, the research team will explore whether ethnicity and gender serve as moderators of impact, with the expectation that certain ethnic groups (e.g., African Americans) and girls may benefit more from the Brainology™ program than other students because of their potential to experience stereotype threat.

Related IES Projects: Growth Mindset Learning Platform for Educators and Students: Supporting Academic Motivation and Achievement through an Integrated Online Platform (EDIES10C0022)