With permission of David Scott Yeager I am posting here the executive summary of a white paper which was prepared for the White House meeting on Excellence in Education: The Importance of Academic Mindsets. Please note that part of the data on this latest research are still unpublished and should not be quoted or cited without permission.


How Can We Instill Productive Mindsets at Scale?

A Review of the Evidence and an Initial R&D Agenda


David S. Yeager, Dave Paunesku, Gregory M. Walton, & Carol S. Dweck


Executive Summary
Research has increasingly shown that there is more to student success than cognitive ability, curriculum and instruction. Students’ mindsets—their beliefs about themselves and the school setting—can powerfully affect whether students learn and grow in school. For example, when students have a fixed mindset, they believe that their intelligence is something that is finite and unchangeable. This makes them doubt their intelligence when they experience difficulty and it undermines resilience and learning. However, when students have more of a growth mindset, they believe that intelligence can be developed. In this mindset, students respond more resiliently to challenges and show greater learning and achievement in the face of difficulty. Randomized experimental studies find that even brief interventions that convey a growth mindset can have important, lasting effects on student learning and performance. For instance: 

  • In an experiment with over 250,000 students learning math concepts on the Khan Academy website, growth mindset encouragement presented at the top of the screen (e.g., “When you learn a new kind of math problem, you grow your math brain!”) increased the rate at which students successfully solved math problems even months after students no longer saw the message, compared to controls who did not see this message.
  • In an experiment conducted with over 1500 students at 13 high schools across the country, learning the growth mindset for one classroom session over the Internet reduced the percent of courses failed by low-achieving students by nearly 7 percentage points, compared to control group students.
  • In an experiment with over 7,500 students at a state university with high dropout rates, a web-based growth mindset intervention completed the summer before freshman year increased the percentage of students earning >12 credits in the first term by 3-4 percentage points(vs. controls), an effect that was larger for African American students (10 percentage points). Earning >12 credits strongly predicts on-time graduation.

How can we deploy research on students’ mindsets to help more students succeed in school? While it can be helpful to redirect students’ mindsets using brief interventions, it may also be helpful to create everyday experiences that reinforce productive mindsets. Doing so is not always straightforward, as there are many ways the essential psychological message can be lost at scale. Scaling responsibly will require dedicated R&D efforts in three areas:

  • Principles: Understanding how to maximize the effects of mindset interventions.
  • Practices: Expanding the “toolkit” of day-to-day practices that instill adaptive mindsets.
  • Assessments: Developing measures that allow for more rapid learning from practice.

With significant investments in these areas, researchers and practitioners can more confidently apply research on mindsets to effect large-scale changes in education—to make educational outcomes more equitable by reducing achievement gaps, to make school more enjoyable by placing the focus on learning and improving rather than on demonstrating raw intelligence, and to make school more efficient by allowing students to take better advantage of learning resources already available to them.


About This Document
This document was created to share the state of the field regarding academic mindsets with education policymakers and private and public funding agencies, in order to help with the organization of investment agendas. It is shared in the spirit of accelerating learning about strategies to create infrastructures that successfully address student mindsets. It is not meant as a final document. Indeed, some of the findings summarized here come from recently-conducted studies that have not yet been able to be accepted for publication. As a result, we ask that readers not quote the document or cite the data without written permission of the authors.


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