Growth mindset does not predict academic achievement, study finds

Academics believe that a fixed mindset may in fact be more conducive to educational success

Adi Bloom

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There is no evidence to support the theory that growth mindsets predict academic achievement, a new study has claimed.

If anything, the research states, a fixed-intelligence mindset helps individuals with below-average intelligence to achieve higher levels of education than they might otherwise.

And it found that, contrary to popular belief, boys were not more likely than girls to demonstrate a growth mindset.

The academics, from Case Western Reserve University, in the US state of Ohio, conducted three different studies, with a total of 393 adults. The aim was to see whether those people with a growth mindset were more likely to succeed than those with a fixed mindset.

'Debilitated by failure'

The idea of growth mindset was first advanced by Stanford University psychology professor Carol Dweck. Professor Dweck argued that a growth mindset is the belief that intelligence, creative ability and talent can change. People with a growth mindset believe they can improve their performance through persistence.

Those with a fixed mindset, meanwhile, believe that intelligence and talent are fixed at birth, and cannot be significantly changed. They therefore see failure as demonstrating lack of ability.

In their paper, the Case Western Reserve academics wrote: “According to the mindset literature, those with growth mindsets embrace challenge and thus have higher academic achievement than their fixed-mindset counterparts, who are debilitated by failure.”

They therefore tested whether sex, age, intelligence, mindset, or any interplay of these would predict levels of education.

Opposite direction

Their own conclusions directly contradicted the existing literature. “We tested the assumption that growth mindsets predict academic achievement,” they write in a paper, published in the latest edition of the journal Intelligence.

“We found no evidence to support this hypothesis…The pattern of results trended in the opposite direction, such that fixed mindsets were associated with greater academic achievement.”

They also examined whether women were more inclined to fixed mindsets than men.

“Women either did not differ from men on average, or were more likely to hold growth mindsets,” they conclude. “Across three studies…we found either no evidence or contradictory evidence to the suggestion that females have more of a fixed mindset than males.”

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Adi Bloom

Adi Bloom is Tes comment editor

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