April 12, 2016

Study: strength based intervention evokes a fixed mindset and undermines performance

A new study seems to confirm my worry about the strength based approach that it may evoke a fixed mindset and undermine performance and development.

The Effectiveness of a Malleable Mindset Intervention in an Introductory Psychology Course
Kathryn A. Becker-Blease (2015)

Abstract: Students who believe that their intelligence is able to grow over time (malleable/ growth mindset) perform better on measures of academic success than students who believe that intelligence is a fixed trait that cannot be changed (fixed mindset; Dweck, 2000). Previous research on the effectiveness of mindset interventions have demonstrated a causal connection between a malleable mindset and increases in end of term cumulative grade point average (Aronson, Fried, & Good, 2002) and performance on standardized math exams (Blackwell, Trzesniewski, & Dweck, 2007).

The present study tested the effectiveness of a malleable mindset intervention in an applied higher education setting. Furthermore, the intervention itself was designed to be sustainable, low cost, and easy to implement in a large-lecture college course. Students enrolled in an introductory psychology course (n=278) were randomly assigned to receive one of three letters after the completion of their first midterm exam. The messages in the letters were centered on either promoting a malleable mindset, a fixed mindset, or thanking students for their class attendance and participation. Additionally, a manipulation check was administered nine weeks post- intervention to see if students read their letter and remembered its take-home message. At the end of the term, between-group differences on measures of post-intervention academic success were assessed.

In line with our hypotheses and previous research, students in the malleable mindset condition outperformed students in the fixed mindset condition on two measures of post-intervention academic success. This effect was stronger for those students who passed the manipulation check at the end of the term. Therefore, the intervention design was an effective way to promote a malleable mindset to students and increase academic success in higher education

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