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Change Your Words

Growth Mindset
May 26, 2016
How a growth mindset intervention improves
student engagement.
Stacie Barry
“See, the mind works like a flower. A
flower needs water, soil, and sunlight to
grow, right? Well, the growth mindset
needs learning, work, and challenges to
grow.” ~ William M. (12 yrs. old)
As educators, we must understand
how children learn and how we can
maximize the time we have with them.
Student engagement is a very important part
of teaching and learning. Parsons, Nuland
and Parsons (2014) state that in order for
students to achieve, they must be engaged in
their learning. Tapping in to and developing
a student’s intrinsic motivation is as
important as the mathematical skills you are
teaching. Education, in general, needs to
Growth Mindset
involve environments and actions that
promote students to believe in themselves.
Many 6th graders have a hard time thinking
of themselves as mathematicians and in
return, tend to not be completely engaged in
their learning.
Carol Dweck (2006) names this as a
fixed mindset. Students with a fixed mindset
believe that intelligence is static and fixed
where a student that has a growth mindset
believes that intelligence and the brain can
grow. Students with a growth mindset
believe that with practice intelligence can be
developed. Promoting a growth mindset
allows students to attack challenges in the
math classroom. Could a growth mindset
intervention improve student engagement?
Yeager and Dweck (2012) show how
this theory of a fixed mindset can lead
students to interpret challenging tasks as a
sign that they are dumb which then leads to
less motivation to try the next time. Niemiec
and Ryan (2009) believe that children need
to feel competent in order for intrinsic
motivation to be sustained. Having a growth
mindset can lead students to believe that
intelligence can be learned. Therefore, they
learn more effectively, desire challenges and
embrace mistakes (Boaler, 2013). The
growth mindset will help students feel
competency. A research study showed that a
growth mindset intervention resulted in a 4.5
point gain in math achievement test scores
(Boaler, 2013). If students can embrace
mistakes (Boaler, 2013) and can see that
intelligence can be developed over time,
they become more resilient when they
encounter challenges in the math classroom
(Yeager & Dweck, 2012).
May 26, 2016
The Intervention
Fifteen 6th grade, general education
students were given a mindset survey
(MindsetWorks.com). The survey provides a
scoring tool to see what level of a fixed
mindset or growth mindset a scholar has.
The range is from a Fixed 5 through Growth
5. In this classroom, six scholars were at a
Fixed 1 mindset. Five scholars were at a
Growth 1 mindset. Two scholars scored at a
Growth 2 mindset. One scholar was at a
Growth 4 mindset and one scholar was at a
Growth 5 mindset.
After the survey was administered,
scholars were given a mathematical task.
They were offered a regular task and a
challenging task. Five out of 15 scholars
chose the challenging task while the
remaining ten chose the regular task. Next,
the growth mindset intervention from
Mindset Works was implemented for two
weeks. Scholars first learned about the brain
and how it works. They read articles on the
brain and how the brain makes connections
and “grows” when practice and challenges
are present.
Scholars watched videos including a
TEDx Talk with Eduardo Briceno on the
Power of the Mindset. The scholars reflected
on their surveys and their own mindsets.
They developed an artistic expression of the
growth mindset. It could be a picture, rap,
poem, slideshow, etc.
Growth Mindset
May 26, 2016
those that chose the regular task. The
scholars solved and presented their
mathematical work and completed a final
reflection on their own mindset and growth.
After the growth mindset
intervention, eleven out of the 15 scholars
increased in the range of their mindsets.
Two stayed the same and two decreased in
their ranges. The most dramatic result was
the engagement in their mathematical tasks.
Overwhelmingly, the acceptance of
challenges and the student engagement in
the mathematics classroom improved.
Scholars then wrote and presented
their own TEDx Talk about the growth
mindset in schools. At the end of the two
weeks, scholars were given the survey again.
Figure 1 shows the changes represented in
the survey.
Figure 1:
Mindset Survey
Can the conclusion be made that the
growth mindset was the sole contributor to
the improvement? No, more work needs to
be done with a much larger pool of
participants. Although this experiment, with
engagement and motivation, does implicate
the importance of teachers to take into
consideration mindsets and children. When
children understand that brains and
knowledge can “grow”, they attack
challenges more and stay engaged in their
Dweck, C.S. (2006). Mindset: The New
Psychology of Success. New York: Random House.
Fixed 1 Growth 1 Growth 2 Growth 3 Growth
The final test came with a
mathematical task. The scholars were given
a choice again of a regular task and a
challenging task. Eleven out of 15 chose the
challenging task. The students with the
challenging tasks were more engaged than
Niemiec, C.P. & Ryan, R.M. (2009). Autonomy,
competence, and relatedness in the classroom: applying
self-determination theory to educational practice. Theory
and Research in Education, 7 (2), 133-144.
Parsons, S.A., Nuland, L.R. & Parsons, A.W.
(2014). The ABC’s of student engagement. The Phi Delta
Kappan, 95 (8), 23-27.
Yeager, D.S. & Dweck, C.S. (2012). Mindsets
that promote resilience: when students believe that personal
characteristics can be developed. Educational Psychologist,
47, (4), 302-314.
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