Some recent research on growth mindset

Tomorrow night [June 5, 9 PM ET] I’m giving a webinar on growth mindset at the Global Math Department. It’s title is What does the latest research say about growth mindset?Technology permitting, it’ll be recorded for later viewing/listening. 

Here’s the session description:

Growth mindset is an active area of research, and new results and tests of the theory are constantly coming in. Come to this webinar to learn some highlights of this research, including some new controversies and subtleties. Here are some of the questions we’ll discuss: Do adults grow new neurons? How much of an impact do growth mindset interventions have? And, most importantly, what is the relationship between growth mindset interventions and teaching math for a growth mindset? You’ll leave this webinar with new questions about how mindset impacts teaching.

(Not sure if we’ll get to the adult neurogenesis stuff. If you’re interested, check this piece out.)

It occurred to me that some people might appreciate a list of readings in advance of the talk. (Reading anything in advance is totally optional. One of my jobs at this webinar is to help you get a sense for what these papers say.)

Here are some of the readings that I’m looking at while preparing for this session. Enjoy and discuss!

This is from 1988, but it’s a blockbuster paper by Dweck that’s a great place to start for thinking about what mindset means and represents in Dweck’s original research:

A social-cognitive approach to motivation and personality.

This one from 2018 and is the first major, new paper that we’ll talk about in the webinar. The link is to a gated version, and (ignoring illegal avenues like sci-hub) I haven’t been able to find a pre-print or draft to share. You can see some figures and discussion of the paper on twitter.

To What Extent and Under Which Circumstances Are Growth Mind-Sets Important to Academic Achievement? Two Meta-Analyses

How exactly is mindset supposed to work for Dweck and the mindset researchers she works with? This paper by two of her research collaborators does a great job making explicit the assumptions that are necessary for mindset theory to have significant impacts on students from short interventions.

Social-Psychological Interventions in Education: They’re Not Magic (draft version here)

And what have Dweck and her collaborators been up to lately? They’ve been studying online versions of their mindset interventions that allow for more robust testing [e.g. they don’t depend on the researchers, they test the impact of the intervention in many different locations, they can more easily run true experiments instead of going dumpster diving in data, they can have a larger number of participants, and they can pre-register their studies since they aren’t relying on extensive collaboration between researchers and teachers]. It also tests the viability of moving growth mindset up to scale. Some of these studies aren’t yet published (e.g. this), but some of them are. (See this this and this.)

Here’s a paper published in 2015 that gives a taste of this research program and relates to the 2018 preprint that made headlines, but is currently unavailable as it undergoes revision.

Mind-Set Interventions Are a Scalable Treatment for Academic Underachievement

Anything else you think we should add? What thoughts or questions do you have about all this mindset stuff?

11 thoughts on “Some recent research on growth mindset

  1. I think this blog post by Andrew Gelman (Columbia University, statistician, critic of bad science practices) captures a lot of what I admire about the Dweck team in this blog post:

    See the comments, where Dweck co-author David Yeager responds to concerns and critiques. They’ve really done great work recently, it seems to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You weren’t kidding. Yeager was all over in those comments and in an admirable way. But boy oh boy, this is rabbit hole after rabbit hole.


  2. I am hyped for this. Your recent treatment of the tracking research was superb. What I appreciated:

    1) You laid out the entire research landscape for tracking.
    2) Your agenda seemed to be simply making sense of the research. Seeing this allowed me to read your post critically, but in a more relaxed way. Said another way, your incentives for the undertaking were clear.
    3) You added your own insight and it was clear where you did so.
    4) You spoke clearly. Academic voice (as seen in research you waded through for us) seems so needlessly obtuse to me. I really like your writing style.

    It reminded me of Dan Carlin and his history podcast. As he weaves a narrative he regularly tells his listeners he is *not* a historian, but here’s the evidence from different parties and his interpretation based on that evidence.

    I see this as a tremendous service for classroom teachers who are pressed for time to even be aware of research let alone make sense of it. (Yes, I know you are one, which is what makes this doubly more impressive!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you liked the tracking pieces!

      This is going to be much less comprehensive than the tracking project. I haven’t done anything like a comprehensive review of the mindset literature. This is more going to be like a couple of landmarks that I’ve found useful for making sense of all this stuff.

      Here’s another useful resource, by the way: PERTS!


      1. Thanks for that PERTS link! That’s the Project for Education Research that Scales for anyone doing a casual fly-by. I’ve got it bookmarked and will have to investigate. I see Dweck and Yeager are listed as collaborators and considering their diligence that is great!

        Even though you mentioned tonight is less exhaustive than the tracking project, I appreciate the questions you outlined to investigate. Some of the work with mindset in schools that I have seen seems superficial. The debates I used to read seemed to be getting lost in the weeds so I for the past few years I tuned out. However, I seem to see a world of empirical evidence for the mindset theory, and since you are a trusted voice, I really appreciate the opportunity to re-focus that you are offering me tonight.


  3. Researchers that focus on effectiveness of mindset interventions, tend to note how well a quick intervention leads to academic achievement. But I’m curious what other outcomes might be at stake here (i.e., equity issues, course selections, willingness to seek challenging work…).

    While I’m not sold on the simplicity of changing our words, or putting up a nice poster, I do believe that we need to re-examine common practices in schools that tell students who is or isn’t a math student. I want math classes to be for everyone for as long as possible!

    Some thoughts you might be interested in:

    A personal experiment I did related to growth mindsets:


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