Growth mindset linked to higher Pisa reading score

Students with a growth mindset scored on average 32 points higher in the Programme for International Student Assessment

growth mindset

Having a growth mindset is associated with higher reading scores in the Programme of International Student Assessment, today's findings reveal.

Growth mindset, a concept developed by Stanford professor Carol Dweck, is the idea that an individual’s learning can be improved if they believe that their intelligence can grow through hard work.

The 2018 Pisa results offer some support for this theory.

On average across OECD countries, students who disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement, "Your intelligence is something about you that you can’t change very much", scored 32 points higher in reading than students who agreed or strongly agreed with the statement.


Read: Exclusive: Growth mindset is ‘bullshit’, says leading geneticist

Interview: Carol Dweck on where growth mindset went wrong

Background: What is the Pisa test and what does it measure?


While a majority of students across OECD countries hold a growth mindset, in the UK, the percentage was one of the highest, at 70 per cent.

Pisa coordinator Andreas Schleicher commented that the relationship between reading performance and growth mindset is stronger than average in the UK – a fact that he defined as positive and important.  

Its impact on reading performance is stronger across all countries for girls, students from disadvantaged background, and also for students from an immigrant background.

However, across most countries, socioeconomically disadvantaged students were more likely to hold a fixed view of intelligence, and so did students with an immigrant background.

Boys were more likely than girls to agree with a fixed mindset statement ("Your intelligence is something you can’t change very much") in most countries – apart from the four provinces of China Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang, Hong Kong (China), Korea, Macao (China), North Macedonia and Chinese Taipei.

Growth mindset was also correlated with other factors, such as students’ motivation to master complex tasks, the value they placed on education and their aspirations for the future.

In Estonia, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania and the UK, at least 70 per cent of students believed in a growth mindset.

At the other end of the scale, 26 countries had a majority of students agreeing with fixed mindset statements ("Your intelligence is something you can’t change very much"), including Greece, Mexico and Poland. In the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Kosovo and North Macedonia, 60 per cent of students endorsed a fixed mindset.

The Pisa findings contrast with those of a major study of the use of growth mindset in schools in England that found that it made no difference to pupils’ English or maths results.

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