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Plans for the National Study of Learning Mindsets grew out of a 2013 convening of leading experts on mindset science that identified the need for a comprehensive study that could help the field better understand heterogeneity in the effects of social psychological interventions in education.


The pioneering work of Stanford University psychology professor Carol Dweck revealed a critical insight about education: Students who believe they can grow their intellectual ability tend to perform better academically than students who believe intelligence is a fixed trait, like height or eye color. Since Dweck’s early work in the 1990s, many studies have validated the link between growth mindset and academic performance and shown that students can be taught a growth mindset.

Many exciting questions grew out of this work: Under what conditions can students be taught a growth mindset most effectively? Can a brief growth mindset program have an impact on students’ longer-term success?

To find answers to these questions a multi-disciplinary team of researchers led by University of Texas at Austin Associate Professor of Psychology David Yeager conducted the NSLM, the largest-ever randomized controlled trial of a growth mindset program in the U.S. in K-12 settings.

The primary goal of the NSLM was to use a nationally representative sample of regular public U.S. high schools to understand which kinds of students, in which kinds of classrooms, and in which kinds of schools would benefit most from an online program designed to foster a growth mindset during the transition to high school.

Like most high-quality educational evaluations, this study was able to isolate the causal impact of the program through use of a randomized experiment. Unlike most other educational evaluations, however, this study took place in a sample of schools that was selected randomly, thus ensuring that generalizations from the sample to the U.S. population of regular public high schools could be made. This use of random sampling in the NSLM therefore gives greater confidence that the results can be applied to the nation than any other past study.


David Yeager and Carol Dweck discuss the evolution of the mindset science field, describe why the NSLM is such an important milestone, and explain where the field can go from here.




Read a 2019 paper from David Yeager and Carol Dweck discussing the history of the online growth mindset intervention that is at the heart of the NSLM.