New Research Says Students With a Growth Mindset Gain a Month of Learning Each Year



New Research Says Students With a Growth Mindset Gain a Month of Learning Each Year 1

Alright, we’ve all been there—we’re standing in front of our classroom, trying to introduce a new concept, and the mixed expressions are palpable. Some students are eager for the challenge, while others seem ready to retreat. As educators, we’ve all felt the subtle frustration of engaging students who quickly resign to the thought “I just can’t do this.” But what if there were a key to transforming this mindset? Recent research from California’s CORE school districts reveals compelling evidence about a student’s growth mindset.

Students who embrace challenges as opportunities to grow—those with a “growth mindset“—could actually be learning more.

Could nurturing this mindset be the game changer in your teaching strategy, making the effort not just worthwhile but essential? Here’s what the researchers have to say:

Key findings from Claro and Loeb (2024)

  • Impact on academic growth: Students with a growth mindset are associated with outperforming their peers with a fixed mindset in academic achievements. Specifically, they learn the equivalent of 33 extra days in English language arts and 31 extra days in mathematics over an academic year.
  • Standardized assessments: Unlike previous studies that relied on grades, this study used standardized test scores, offering a more objective measure of academic achievement.
  • Variability among students: The study found significant variability in growth mindset scores based on socioeconomic status and ethnicity. Students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and students who have been or are English-language learners tend to have lower growth mindset scores than their peers. This suggests that these groups might be at a disadvantage in terms of developing beliefs that can foster academic resilience and growth. Plus, higher-achieving students tended to have a more pronounced growth mindset than their lower-achieving peers.

Can we trust this research?

Not all research is created equal! Here’s what our We Are Teachers “Malarkey Meter” says when it comes to this publication based on four key factors:

  • Peer-reviewed? Yes! While these data come from 2013-2017, this manuscript surely spent a fair amount of time in the peer-review process.
  • Sample size? Oh yeah. Over 200,000 students? This is the type of sample size us researchers drool over. So much statistical power!
  • Trustworthy source? Both Claro and Loeb make up over 42,000 citations in the academic field, and they are both well known in their research fields. Additionally, this manuscript was posted in Educational Researcher—a high-impact journal in education research, and a *dream* for any researcher to be published in.
  • Methodology? While this study is descriptive and isn’t causal (we can’t directly claim that growth mindset = more learning), they had a large sample size. Over 200,000 students in California rated their beliefs about intelligence and learning on a scale from 1 to 5. These self-reported growth mindset scores were then analyzed alongside standardized test data to examine their association with academic performance, controlling for and considering a wide range of demographic and school-related variables to ensure robust findings. We like to see causality in the field, but this is the most rigorous approach the researchers could take in this situation.

What does this mean for teachers?

These findings suggest it might be worth it to nurture an environment that celebrates challenges as opportunities for learning. I know, I know, it is so hard to move past all the eye rolls when you’re cheering about “conquering challenges,” but students with a growth mindset could be learning more. If America wants to get out of the pit of a COVID-19 learning loss so badly, maybe this isn’t a half-bad approach to take.

Moreover, the variability in growth mindsets across students facing poverty and ELLs highlights the need for tailored strategies that promote resilience and a belief in personal development.

Claro and Loeb (2024) highlight the potential that nurturing a growth mindset can have on student learning and achievement. Emphasizing resilience and the ability to grow through challenges can significantly extend students’ learning time—even if it does feel painful in the moment to pull them out of their eye rolls! When promoting growth mindsets, teachers can help bridge achievement gaps and support all students in reaching their full potential.

How do I teach my students to have a growth mindset?

Clearly, teaching a growth mindset is a valuable tool for students. But how do you teach students to embrace that way of thinking? Here are some resources to get you started:

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