High School Transition Program - Spring 2015
During the spring, 13,104 students across 69 schools in the United States and Canada participated in the High School Transition Program, an online program designed to help students develop a growth mindset. A growth mindset is the belief that you can increase your intelligence through effort and by seeking out challenges. Students with a growth mindset tend to be more motivated and engaged learners. They are more likely to stay resilient in the face of setbacks and put more effort into their schoolwork.
Map of Participating Schools
Location of schools that participated in the High School Transition Program. Students participated across 69 schools.
Students with a ﬁxed mindset believe that intelligence can’t really be changed - you’re either smart or you’re not. These students are less likely to study hard or ask for help because they believe these actions might mean they are “dumb.”
In addition to redirecting students’ thinking to promote resilience, we ask students questions to assess their mindsets. On the following pages we discuss:
- The relationship between growth mindset and achievement.
- The program findings.
- Your students’ mindsets!
Growth Mindset and Academic Achievement
Research by Carol Dweck and others has found that students’ beliefs about intelligence predict academic achievement. Students who have a growth mindset generally do better in school than students who believe that intelligence is ﬁxed.
The relationship between a growth mindset and academic performance is powerful. In one study, researchers at Stanford University surveyed all of the 10th graders in the nation of Chile. Students with a growth mindset were 3 times more likely to score in the top 20% of their class, whereas students with a fixed mindset were four times more likely to score in the bottom 20% (see Figures 2 and 3).
Percentage of Students Scoring in the Top 20%
Percentage of Students Scoring in the Bottom 20%
The good news is that we can teach students to have a growth mindset. Growth mindset programs help students see that intelligence can be changed through effort and encourage them to interpret challenges and mistakes as opportunities for growth.
Results from a PERTS study can be seen in Figure 4. In this study, underperforming students in the growth mindset program became more likely to earn satisfactory grades (e.g., As, Bs, and Cs) in core classes than students in the control program. Students
in the control group earned satisfactory grades in 41% of their courses, whereas students
in the treatment group earned satisfactory grades in 49% of their courses.
Satisfactory Grades Earned by Underperforming High School Students
In prior studies, underperforming students in the growth mindset program earned more satisfactory grades in core academic courses than students in the control program.
Spring 2015 High School Transition Program Results
13,104 students across 69 schools participated in the Spring High School Transition Program. Students answered survey questions before and after completing the growth mindset program. They were asked how much they agreed with statements such as, “Your intelligence is something about you that you can’t change very much.”
Students were randomly assigned to one of three growth mindset treatments:
- An older treatment that had shown significant results (see research article).
- A newer treatment that ran for the first time in Fall 2014.
- A brand new iteration of the treatment that had never been tested before.
Growth Mindset Results
The program increased the percentage of students endorsing a growth mindset.
Students experienced a significant shift in mindset in all three treatments. However, the Fall 2014 and Spring 2015 treatments were significantly better at changing mindsets than the older version of the treatment. Across all treatments, students became significantly more likely to endorse a growth mindset than they were before the study. Specifically, % of students reported having a growth mindset before participating, and % reported having a growth mindset after participating (see Figure 5).
Your Students' Results
students at participated in the High School Transition Program. Across all treatments, % of students at reported having a growth mindset after participating, compared to % before participating.
In addition to growth mindset of intelligence, we also asked students questions to assess various related beliefs and behaviors. We wanted to provide you with relevant data so that you can get a better sense of your students’ mindsets and specific behaviors related to learning. We hope this information is useful!
After the program, % of students at had a growth mindset.
Comparison of Mindsets in Your District
The percentage of students with a growth, intermediate, or ﬁxed mindset in your district and the entire program.
Students with a fixed mindset often believe that if you have to try hard at school, it means you're not smart. As a result, they feel threatened when they have to put a lot of effort into a task. For students with a growth mindset, effort isn’t a sign that they are lacking in intelligence, it’s a sign that they are being challenged and are learning. For these students, effort is seen as a good thing.
% of students at disagreed with the statement, “When you have to try really hard in a subject in school, it means you can’t be good at that subject.”
Comparison of Students Who Think Effort is a Sign of Inability in Your District
The percentage of students who indicated strong, intermediate, or low agreement with the statement, “When you have to try really hard in a subject in school, it means you can’t be good at that subject” in your district and the entire program.
Trying to Avoid Looking Dumb
Many students say their main goal in school is to avoid looking dumb. These students are more concerned about what others think of them than they are about learning. Students with a fixed mindset tend to worry more about not succeeding because they think it will make them look dumb. Students with a growth mindset don’t worry as much about failing or “looking dumb,” because they know that they have the ability to improve. As a result, students with a growth mindset are more likely to challenge themselves.
% of students at did not endorse the statement, “One of my main goals for the rest of the school year is to avoid looking stupid in my classes.”
Comparison of Avoidance Goals in Your District
The percentage of students who greatly, moderately, or minimally endorsed the statement, “One of my main goals for the rest of the school year is to avoid looking stupid in my classes” in your district and the entire program.
Seeking Out Challenge
When given the choice between a challenging task and an easy task, fixed mindset students often choose the easier task. This is because they are either scared to make a mistake, or want to show off their intelligence. However, students with a growth mindset are more likely to choose the challenging task, because they view challenges as a chance to learn something new.
% of students at said that they would rather choose the challenging task.
Comparison of Challenge Seeking in Your District
The percentage of students who said they would choose the challenging task compared to the easy task in your district and the entire program.
Students are more likely to be anxious about math because 1) math ability is often believed to be a fixed trait, and 2) math is a challenging subject for many students. As a result, math can give students a lot of anxiety, especially if they find it challenging.
% of students at reported having low math anxiety.
Comparison of Math Anxiety in Your District
The percentage of students who said they had high, intermediate, or low levels of math anxiety in your district and the entire program.
Sense of Purpose
When students have a strong purpose for learning (i.e., when they are able to connect school goals to goals that will help others), they are more motivated to put effort into their schoolwork, and as a result may show increased academic achievement.
% of students at had a high sense purpose for trying harder in school.
Comparison of Sense of Purpose in Your District
The percentage of students who said they had a low, intermediate, or high sense of purpose for doing well in school in your district and the entire program.
Continuing Your Students’ Path Towards a Growth Mindset
Cultivating a growth mindset in your students takes time and effort, but in the end it will pay off with more motivated and engaged students. Researchers and educators have spent years thinking about this, and we are still learning. Along the way, we have learned some important lessons about what works, and equally important, what does NOT work. Below, we share some of the important lessons we have learned.
What should you avoid?
Do not just tell students to have a growth mindset
Students can have a negative reaction to being told how to think. Instead of telling students to “have a growth mindset,” explain to them the science behind how intelligence works — that the brain can get stronger and smarter with new learning. For more information, click here.
Do not tell students to “just try harder”
Most students have heard “just try harder,” but a growth mindset isn't just about trying harder. Students need to understand why they should put in effort and how to deploy that effort. Sometimes a better strategy is more useful than sheer effort. For more information, click here.
What should you do?
Celebrate mistakes and productive struggle
Many students fear making mistakes. They think mistakes mean they are not smart. But research shows that conceptual mistakes are an important part of learning. Having to work through a difficult problem and try different strategies is the best way to get better at a subject. Celebrate and normalize mistakes by telling your students that you like mistakes and by showing them how to learn from them. For more information, click here.
Praise the process, not the person
Our intuition is often to praise students for being smart. This sends the wrong message. When students later encounter a setback, they conclude: “If my past success made me smart, my current struggle makes me dumb.” Instead, praise students when they work hard to accomplish a difficult task. This implies that you value hard work and that hard work is the cause of success. For more information, click here.
Give growth mindset encouragement
When students are struggling, remind them that challenges are the best way to grow their brains. Help them picture their brains getting stronger as they work through a difficult problem.
Give “open” tasks
Give tasks with multiple steps and multiple right answers. This encourages students to learn concepts instead of memorize lists of facts or rules.
Assess learning, not just performance
Are students engaged in the learning process? For example, in group work:
- Are students leaning forward in their chairs or slouched back looking bored?
- Is everyone participating?
- Are students asking each other questions?
Stay in Touch!
Want more? Stanford PERTS has released a Mindset Kit for educators. This kit currently includes a collection of growth mindset lessons for educators who want to learn more about growth mindset, why it’s important, and practices to support this belief in the classroom. You can also follow us @pertslab or on our blog at blog.perts.net to stay connected and informed about adaptive academic mindsets.
We want to thank you for your participation in this important research. Collaborations with educators like you are an essential part of refining our collective understanding of how best to support student success. We hope that you will find these results on your students’ beliefs interesting and useful. We welcome your feedback on this report and on how we might improve the experience of participating in research collaborations in the future.
This project was funded by grants from the Raikes Foundation, the Character Lab, the National Science Foundation, and Stanford University. Our work has been supported by a number of organizations that help us connect with educators and resources. This program is a collaboration between The University of Texas at Austin and Stanford University.
Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset. New York, NY: Random House.
Paunesku, D., Walton, G. M., Romero, C., Smith, E. N., Yeager, D. S., & Dweck, C. S. (2015). Mind-set interventions are a scalable treatment for academic underachievement. Psychological Science.
Yeager, D. S., Henderson, M., Paunesku, D., Walton, G. M., Spitzer, B., D'Mello, S., & Duckworth, A. L. (2014). Boring but important: A self-transcendent purpose for learning fosters academic self-regulation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 107(4), 559-580.
Appendix of Scales
To determine their level of growth mindset of intelligence, students were asked to rate their agreement with 2 items on a scale from 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 6 (Strongly Agree).
- Your intelligence is something about you that you can’t change very much.
- You have a certain amount of intelligence, and you really can’t do much to change it.
To determine students’ beliefs about effort, they were asked to rate their agreement with 1 item on a scale from 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 6 (Strongly Agree).
- When you have to try really hard in a subject in school, it means you can’t be good at that subject.
To determine their learning vs. performance goals, students were asked to rate their agreement with 1 item on a scale from 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 6 (Strongly Agree).
- One of my main goals for the rest of the school year is to avoid looking stupid in my classes.
Seeking out Challenge
To determine how likely they were to seek out challenges, students were given a scenario and asked to choose between picking an easy assignment or a hard math assignment.
- Imagine that, later today or tomorrow, your math teacher hands out two extra credit assignments. You get to choose which one to do. You get the same number of points for trying either one. One choice is an easy review—it has math problems you already know how to solve, and you will probably get most of the answers right without having to think very much. It takes 30 minutes. The other choice is a hard challenge—it has math problems you don’t know how to solve, and you will probably get most of the problems wrong, but you might learn something new. It also takes 30 minutes. If you had to pick right now, which would you pick?
- The easy math assignment where I would get most problems right.
- The hard math assignment where I would possibly learn something new.
To determine students’ levels of math anxiety, students were asked to rate their experience with 1 item on a scale from 1 (Not At All) to 5 (An Extreme Amount).
- In general, how much does the subject of math in school make you feel nervous, worried, and full of anxiety?
Sense of Purpose
To determine students’ reasons for trying hard in school, they were asked to rate how true for them 3 items were on a scale from 1 (Not At All True) to 5 (Extremely True).
- I want to be a role model for my family or people in my community.
- I want to learn things that will help me make a positive impact on the world.
- I want to gain skills that I can use in a job that helps others.