Study: growth mindset interventions by teachers work
Underachievement in schools is a persistent problem. What role do students' beliefs about the developability of their own abilities play in this? And can these beliefs be influenced? And what role can teachers play in this? New research provides answers.
The role of mindset in learning and performance
Research by Carol Dweck and her colleagues suggests that student mindsets play an important role in learning and achievement. They distinguish two types of mindsets: a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. A growth mindset is the belief that you can develop intellectual capabilities through effective effort. The fixed mindset is the belief that intellectual capacities are difficult or impossible to develop.
The Mindset Meaning System
Dweck and her colleagues showed that different mindsets lead to different kinds of goals, beliefs about effort, attributions of adversity, and degrees of persistence. These differences are shown in the picture below of the so-called mindset-meaning system (read more):
Previous studies have shown that growth mindset interventions delivered to students through the computer have positive effects (read more). They can improve the school performance of students and reduce the risk of dropping out. Research has also shown that these interventions are only effective in learning environments that support the growth mindset (read more).
Growth mindset interventions by teachers can work
Until now, few studies have shown that mindset interventions by teachers have a positive effect on the mindsets of students and thus on their learning and performance. In a new study, Tenelle Porter and her colleagues tested the effects of growth mindset interventions committed by teachers (Porter et al., 2022).
In their study, they tested an intervention designed to both instill beliefs about a growth mindset and create a supportive classroom environment where those beliefs could flourish (N = 1,996 students, N = 50 teachers). The intervention improved the grades of struggling students in the target class by 0.27 standard deviations, or 2.81 percentage points.
The effects were greatest in students whose teachers endorsed a fixed mindset before the intervention. This large-scale, randomized controlled trial shows that growth mindset interventions can be beneficial when delivered by teachers.
Education is important. It can contribute significantly to the development and quality of life of individuals. Fixed mindsets about capabilities, however, can be a psychological baggage that undermines learning and achievement. However, we do not have to resign ourselves to this.
Interventions aimed at inducing a growth mindset combined with developing a growth mindset supportive environment in schools can contribute to improving the learning, performance and well-being of struggling students.