Efficacy of a Growth Mindset Intervention to Increase Student Success
Co-Principal Investigator: Rodriguez, Sylvia
Purpose: The purpose of this project was to test whether the Brainology® Growth Mindset Induction Curriculum for Students can foster a growth mindset in adolescent students. Brainology is a commercially available blended curriculum that was developed in part with support from a 2010 IES SBIR FastTrack Award. 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.
Project Activities: Over four school years, researchers randomly assigned sixth and seventh grade core academic subject teachers to implement the Brainology program along with the regular curriculum or to continue with the regular curriculum alone. The researchers assessed the impacts of the program on student mindsets and achievement (grades and test scores) in the spring of the implementation year and in the fall of the following school year.
Pre-registration site: https://osf.io/z2nvy/
Setting: Participating schools were located in New York and California.
Sample: Study participants included 52 teachers who taught at least one sixth or seventh grade core academic subject class and approximately 2,492 sixth and seventh graders across 11 middle schools.
Intervention: The Brainology® Growth Mindset Induction Curriculum for Students is designed to be implemented in classrooms. 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 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 teaches students specific neuroscience-based strategies to enhance attention, engagement, learning, and memory, and to manage negative emotions. Program materials address common challenges in school (such as 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. Brainology includes support materials for teachers to help them integrate the program and growth mindset concepts more generally into daily activities at school. In this study, teachers were supported in their implementation of Brainology through in-person professional development, a curriculum guide, and ongoing support and feedback.
Research Design and Methods: In each of four years, the research team randomly assigned sixth or seventh grade core subject teachers (52 teachers at 11 schools) to implement the Brainology curriculum in addition to their typical instruction in their sixth or seventh grade core academic subject class (treatment) or to follow the standard curriculum in place at their school (control). Brainology teachers implemented the program in the fall or winter semester of the school year for about 10 weeks. In both conditions, teachers and students completed a baseline survey of their mindset-related beliefs, goals, and attitudes, and teachers rated students' mastery-oriented behavior. The research team monitored implementation of Brainology through teacher logs and surveys. During the spring semester of the implementation year, and in the fall of the following school year, the researchers collected student outcome measures in both conditions.
Control Condition: In the control condition, students experienced standard classroom practices in place at their school.
Key Measures: The researchers assessed student motivational beliefs using the Theory of Intelligence survey, the Patterns of Adaptive Learning Survey (PALS), and researcher-developed measures of beliefs about effort and attitudes toward the class subject in which the intervention was implemented as well as attitudes about science. Teachers rated students’ motivation using ratings of mastery-oriented behavior and observations of student behavior in an effort and task choice activity. Student achievement was assessed using report card grades in three core subjects in which Brainology was implemented (math, English Language Arts, and science), as well as state achievement test scores in math and English Language Arts. Researchers also measured the potential moderating effect of teachers' own mindsets (Theory of Intelligence survey) and classroom instructional practices (via student surveys and structured classroom observations).
Data Analytic Strategy: Researchers used four-level multilevel models to account for student nesting within schools, teachers, and class subjects to assess the impact of Brainology on grades, and three-level models nesting students within schools and teachers for behavior and belief outcomes. The team used multilevel mediation models to determine whether student beliefs and behavior determined the impact of Brainology on student achievement. Finally, the research team explored whether student baseline achievement, teacher baseline growth mindset, and student ethnicity and gender moderated the impact, with the expectation that struggling students and certain ethnic groups (for example 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)
Publications and Products
Journal article, monograph, or newsletter
Porter, T., Molina, D.C., Blackwell, L., Roberts, S., Quirk, A., Duckworth, A.L., and Trzesniewski, K. (2020). Measuring Mastery Behaviours at Scale: The Persistence, Effort, Resilience, and Challenge-Seeking (PERC) Task. Journal of Learning Analytics, 7(1): 5–18.
Publicly available data
Data will be posted at https://osf.io/z2nvy/ when full achievement data have been collected (by mid to late 2021).