UPDATES Sign up to receive periodic updates from the Mindset Scholars Network.
Impacts of the growth mindset program on academic outcomes from the National Study of Learning Mindsets were first published in Nature in 2019. The research team analyzed data from more than 12,000 students attending 65 schools in the NSLM that shared students’ academic records with the study team.
PRIMARY OUTCOMES OF THE GROWTH MINDSET PROGRAM
Positive effects on mindsets. The program reduced the prevalence of self-reported fixed mindsets (the belief that intellectual ability cannot be developed), replicating multiple earlier studies conducted with smaller convenience samples of students. The effects were consistent across all student subgroups.
Positive effects on key academic predictors of high school graduation and college success. The program had benefits for both lower- and higher-achieving students. It improved grades in core academic subjects (mathematics, English language arts, science, and social studies) in 9th grade among previously lower-achieving students. It also increased enrollment in advanced mathematics courses in 10th grade among both higher- and lower-achieving students (this result was obtained in a sub-sample of 41 schools that shared 10th grade enrollment data).
- Positive effects on grades of lower-achieving students. For students whose grades were below the median in their school, the program improved their GPA in core courses by 0.10 grade points relative to similar students in the control condition. The program also reduced the proportion of these students with a D or F average in their core courses by over 5 percentage points. These effects are substantial when compared to the most successful large-scale, time-consuming, and rigorously evaluated programs with adolescents in the educational research literature, and they are particularly notable given the low cost and time investment of the online program.
- Effects on grades were related to school factors. Effects were larger in some types of schools and smaller in others. In medium- and lower-performing schools in which the peer climate (the “norms”) supported the pursuit of challenging academic work, the program increased core course GPA by 0.15 points and STEM course GPA by 0.17 points on average among lower-achieving students. In these schools, the intervention also reduced the likelihood of D or F averages in core courses by 8 percentage points among these students. Again, these effects compare very favorably to those documented in rigorous experimental studies of education programs with adolescents (see Kraft 2018), many of which are time and cost intensive.
- Positive effects on advanced mathematics course-taking were observed among both higher- and lower-achieving students. The program increased students’ likelihood of taking Algebra II or higher in 10th grade by 3 percentage points, elevating advanced course-taking from a base rate of 33% to a rate of 36% (this result was obtained in a sub-sample of 41 schools that shared 10th grade enrollment data). In the highest performing quarter of schools, the program increased the likelihood of taking Algebra II or higher in 10th grade by 4 percentage points.
Findings from the National Study of Learning Mindsets suggest that a carefully developed and tested but brief online growth mindset program can offer a way to improve key academic indicators and promote the pursuit of more challenging coursework as students make the critical transition to high school. The results also suggest that educators in all schools should pay particular attention to cultivating norms that value the pursuit of challenging schoolwork.
 Medium- and lower-performing schools represent the bottom 75% of schools nationally in terms of performance, as determined by combining several sources of data: within-state rankings based on test scores, average PSAT scores, and AP test-taking data (including the proportion of students at the school who take AP tests and their test scores).