New study puts growth mindset theory to the test

Research aims to find out whether teaching children psychologist Carol Dweck’s theory will improve their results

A new national study aims to establish whether children who are taught that they can influence their own brain development and intelligence achieve more than those who are not.

Psychologists at the University of Portsmouth have set up a research project looking into growth mindset theory, involving around 6,000 pupils at 100 schools across England.

Pioneered by Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, the theory suggests that intelligence and ability are not fixed characteristics, but can be changed and developed.

The Portsmouth study will therefore examine whether pupils who are encouraged to build their intelligence through persistence, self-belief and self-improvement strategies achieve more than those who are not.

Over eight weeks, from September this year, Year 5 and 6 teachers from each of the 100 schools will be trained in the delivery of growth-mindset interventions.

‘Potential for success’

The pupils taking part in the study will be shown six films, created by Positive Edge, a growth mindset provider, and made to resemble a Hollywood blockbuster. Drawing on examples such as Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin, who succeeded against the odds, these films will teach children that intelligence and potential for success are not immutable.

The intervention will also include lesson plans and classroom materials, intended to complement the films.

The key stage 2 test results of the Year 6 intervention group will be compared with those from a control group of Year 6 pupils.

In June 2015, a study of 36 schools was conducted jointly by the University of Portsmouth and the Education Endowment Foundation. This found that pupils who had participated in growth-mindset workshops made an average of two additional months’ progress in English and maths. The new study will replicate this research on a larger scale.

Sherria Hoskins, head of psychology at the University of Portsmouth, said that she hoped this study would demonstrate whether or not growth mindset could improve pupils’ outcomes.

“We have seen a growing interest in this area from the education community, and I hope that this study will provide a clearer picture about the process and its impact,” she said.

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