Strengthening Post-Secondary Readiness by Cultivating Growth Mindsets



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Educators and educational systems repeatedly debate and design policy, build strategic plans for schools and school systems, and write daily classroom lesson plans to address widening gaps in academic performance and postsecondary success across lines of advantage. The implications of these widening gaps are extraordinary. Many efforts show promise and are worth further exploration. These reform efforts are not enough. Other factors – often psychological in nature – affect children during key life transitions such as middle to high school and must be considered as part of a holistic reform strategy. Research conducted in fields like experimental social psychology identifies complementary approaches that have dramatic and often surprisingly lasting effects for some children. One example is growth mindset – the belief that talent is not innate but can be developed. During student transitions from 8th to 9th grade, can short, cost-effective mindset interventions improve academic performance as well as improve resilience when work becomes more difficult? This is an archival study (AS) conducted on one of the high schools in a national study (NS) piloting a brief mindset intervention. This AS sought to understand the effects on 508 9th graders (268 males, 240 females) at one of the pilot schools – a demographically diverse, suburban high school. The results of the study include: increased growth mindsets in students generally, including an 8% improvement for the treatment group and a 7% improvement for students who qualified for free or reduced-price meals (FARM) regardless of whether or not they received the treatment; academic improvement for students who do not qualify for FARM; and, academic improvement for students who held a C- or higher GPA in 8th grade.



Growth mindset, Academic performance, Social psychology, Challenge-seeking, Education reform, Transitions