Read the Nature paper here
The National Study of Learning Mindsets (NSLM) was designed to test whether a short, online program to foster a growth mindset during the transition to high school improves student performance in a nationally representative sample of high schools. One of the first and largest randomized control trials of an educational intervention, the study design of the NSLM allows researchers to investigate what types of students in which educational contexts can benefit from the growth mindset program.
Features of the NSLM
- Nationally-representative sample of 9th graders within U.S. public schools
- The stratified sampling considers the racial composition and overall achievement level of schools
- Full census of students within most high schools
- Double-blind, random-assignment to intervention condition within high schools
- Professional data processing by a 3rd party firm
- Longitudinal follow-up over four years
The Growth Mindset Program
Mindsets are student beliefs about and perceptions of their learning environment. They act as the lens through which we interpret the meaning of events and experiences. A growth mindset is the idea that your intelligence has the potential to growth and improve in response to effort, strategies, and help from others. In contrast, a fixed mindset is the idea that your intelligence is something that you only have a fixed amount of and can’t be changed. The growth mindset intervention tries to convince 9th grade students that they can grow their abilities during high school so they are not discouraged in the face of failure. It begins with a critical metaphor: the brain is like a muscle. It teaches students that the more you challenge yourself, the more you will learn, just like working out your muscles. It then asks students to reflect on their own experiences during the transition to high school and write a letter to help future 9th grade students.
Below is an example:
I heard you had trouble with a certain subject, weather it was English, Math, or Spanish. Don’t worry, I guarantee the person sitting to your left or right, has the same problem. Remember, just because you struggle, doesn’t mean you can’t be good at it. You just need to work for what you want. Ask your friends, ask your teachers for help, however that may be hard for some people, but you have to do it so your teachers can get an idea of what you need help with. The years of a teen are the best years to exercise your brain, as this is what you will know when you take on a job or college. If you’re struggling, remember that you’re only helping yourself. Enjoy 9th grade and do whatever you can to make it successful!
We offer the growth mindset program for free through PERTS
If you would like access to this program for research purposes, please contact us.
The first wave of the study focused on students’ experiences in 9th grade during the 2015-2016 school year. It consists of:
- Student survey within the first few months of school that included the first part of the growth mindset treatment and baseline measures of students’ past academic experiences, expectations for success, belonging, and other student social and psychological resources.
- Student survey a few weeks later that included the second part of the treatment (which focus on students’ purpose for learning), the Make-a-Math Worksheet task (an innovation measure of students’ math motivation), and questions about their math teachers.
- Survey of 9th grade math teachers within our sample school, including their teaching experience, growth mindset beliefs and practices, math pedagogical content knowledge, and implicit gender and racial bias.
- Students’ 9th grade academic records, including their grades across subject areas, plans for 10th grade course-taking in math, and demographic information provided by schools.
You can access the Wave 1 data on ICPSR
The second wave of the study is currently underway to examine the potential long-term effects of the growth mindset intervention. Wave 2 includes:
- Students’ graduation status and high school course-taking patterns from their original 9th grade school
- Students’ graduation status and high school course-taking from schools they transferred to after 9th grade
- Students’ college enrollment patterns from the National Student Clearinghouse
- Yearbooks from all four years of high school
- Math curriculum information
National Mindset Innovation Network
From 2018 to 2021, the schools participating in Wave 2 of the study joined a Research Practice Partnership with us, called the National Mindset Innovation Network (NMIN). Benefits for participating schools include:
- Professional Learning
- Peer Network Collaboration
- Newsletters Highlighting Mindset Research
- National Prestige
The National Mindset Innovation Network (NMIN) was a network representative of schools across the country involved in studying and developing student mindset strategies through collaboration of professional learning practices and was directly born from the National Study of Learning Mindsets.
This research-practice partnership answered questions that mattered to schools, so that they could continually improve the outcomes that they have prioritized. As a research-practice partnership, the National Mindset Innovation Network merged data already collected as a part of the National Study and used it to support the schools’ initiatives.
Benefits for schools of being part of NMIN
- Professional Learning – PhDs delivered customized professional learning experiences with each schools’ own data.
- Peer Network Collaboration – Schools had a group of trusted, like-minded partners that they could call upon, learn from, and teach the best practices in the field through both facilitated webinars and 1:1 outreach.
- Articles and Webinars – Monthly newsletter with article highlights with discussion guides for professional learning.
- Character Lab Educator Summit – A dedicated time in Philadelphia where all schools came together to deepen their community, discuss initiatives and learn from leaders in the field. Included in this time is a “mini-summit” to learn, celebrate, and deepen community.