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A Growth Mindset Intervention Can Change Students’ Grades if School Culture is Supportive

GrowthMindset Illustration

Article from College of Natural Science News, August 09, 2019: Boosting academic success does not have to derive from new teachers or curriculum; it can also come from changing students' attitudes about their abilities through a short online intervention, according to the latest findings from the National Study of Learning Mindsets published in Nature on Aug. 7. Faculty in the Department of Statistics and Data Sciences contributed to the research.

The experimental study involved more than 12,000 ninth graders in a national, representative sample of 65 public high schools across the United States. It showed that an intervention emphasizing a growth mindset — the belief that intellectual abilities are not fixed but can be developed — can improve key predictors of high school graduation and college success, especially when a school's culture supports the treatment message. 

The first author was David Yeager, an associate professor of psychology at The University of Texas at Austin. Co-authors included Jared Murray and Carlos Carvalho, both faculty in the Department of Statistics and Data Sciences. Murray also explained the analytical approach and involvement of statistics graduate students Jennifer Starling and Spencer Woody in a blog post for statisticians this week.  

"The research cemented a striking finding from multiple earlier studies: A short intervention can change the unlikely outcome of adolescents' grades many months later,"  Yeager said. "It also showed us something new: Higher-achieving students don't get higher grades after the program, but they are more likely to take harder classes that set them up for long-term success."

According to U.S. federal government statistics, nearly 20% of students in the U.S. do not finish high school on time. These students are also at an increased risk of poverty, poor health and early mortality. The transition to high school represents an important transition point in adolescents' paths toward high school completion.

Building on prior research, researchers found that two 25-minute online sessions, administered at the beginning of high school, can help students develop a growth mindset by reshaping their attitudes about their abilities. Researchers found that both lower- and higher-achieving students benefited academically from the program, even into their sophomore year.

On average, lower-achieving students who took the program earned 0.10 higher grade points in core academic subjects such as math, English, science and social studies. Additionally, the intervention reduced the proportion of these students with a D or F average in these courses by more than 5 percentage points.

Researchers also found that the intervention increased the likelihood students took Algebra II or higher in 10th grade by 3 percentage points among both higher- and lower-achieving students. In medium- to low-performing schools with norms that encouraged students to take on more challenging coursework, lower-achieving students who received the intervention improved 0.15 grade points in core courses and 0.17 grade points in STEM courses.

The Growth Mindset intervention tested in the study is freely available to schools in the U.S. and Canada at https://www.perts.net/orientation/hg.

Original Article, Staff Writer: https://cns.utexas.edu/news/a-growth-mindset-intervention-can-change-students-grades-if-school-culture-is-supportive

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