What Is a Growth Mindset?
Some individuals acquire skills and knowledge effortlessly, some are more orderly and achievement-focused than are their peers, and others exhibit unusual talents. While such positive traits are not evenly distributed, they are not necessarily out of reach for those who are not "natural" high achievers. A growth mindset, as conceived by psychologist Carol Dweck and colleagues, is the belief that a person's capacities and talents can be improved over time.
A growth mindset contrasts with a fixed mindset—the limiting belief that such capacities cannot be meaningfully developed. Proponents of the theory contend that adopting a growth mindset, and rejecting a fixed mindset, can make students and others more likely to succeed. They propose that individuals with a growth mindset will be more oriented toward self-improvement and more likely to persist in the face of challenges and failures because they will treat them as opportunities to grow rather than signs that their abilities are inadequate.
In mindset studies, participants are considered to have more of a growth mindset if they disagree with statements such as “You have a certain amount of intelligence, and you really can’t do much to change it,” and to have more of a fixed mindset if they agree.
How Much Does a Growth Mindset Help?
Efforts to encourage a growth mindset in students have gained traction in many schools. But does it work? Many studies have aimed to assess whether mindset interventions deliver measurable improvements in student achievement, and the results are mixed: Some researchers report positive results while others find little or no evidence that such interventions make a difference, and critique the earlier studies that established the concept.
It’s possible that growth-mindset interventions boost some students, but not others. In one of the largest experiments, which focused on ninth graders in the U.S., students were given a relatively brief intervention (less than an hour, in total) in which they learned about mindsets and how behaviors such as putting in effort and changing one’s strategy could be helpful. For lower-achieving students, the researchers reported, the intervention was followed by an average gain of 0.10 GPA points.