Date
8 April 2021
Sky’s the limit: Understanding the impact of growth mindset

The idea of growth mindset challenges us. It challenges us to think differently about intelligence, talent, and potential. And it challenges us to think carefully about how we create the right conditions to help students thrive.

We’ve published a new report with the OECD to help educators and policymakers better understand growth mindset: what it is, what impact it can have, and how they can begin to embed it in schools and systems. You can download and read the report in full, and we’ve summarized some of the big themes in this article.

Growth mindset pioneer Carol Dweck was our inaugural Education Research laureate
She reminds us that growth mindset takes skill and care to implement well. True growth mindset is the belief that abilities can be developed. More than that, it involves a love of learning: relishing challenges, using failures as learning opportunities, and exploring different ways of getting to a goal. But it’s often misunderstood – or mistaken for simply telling students they can achieve whatever they want.

Carol’s work has consistently shown that students with more of a growth mindset often go on to achieve more – and have bolder ambitions – than peers with a fixed mindset. She and her colleagues are currently exploring the crucial role teachers play in developing and supporting their students’ growth mindsets.

The OECD is measuring the impact of growth mindset through PISA
Every three years, PISA, the Program for International Assessment, surveys 600,000 15-year-olds. Andreas Schleicher, who leads the program, is also the head of our judging panel for education research. He’s built PISA to be the gold standard for countries to understand education quality, fairness, efficiency, and best practices. PISA continues to evolve in order to account for those changes in society that affect education. Each PISA assessment adds new areas to explore such as beliefs about science, motivation to read, collaborative problem solving, global competence, and wellbeing. In 2018, for the first time, it included a question measuring whether students in 78 countries/economies have growth or fixed mindsets.

PISA data provide various stakeholders with opportunities to sustain improvements in education. By adding growth mindset to the list of analyses PISA explores, we can collect internationally comparable evidence that helps us make broad, effective, and lasting changes.

The report looks at growth mindset from every angle
Do we see distinct differences in growth mindset between different countries? Does social and economic advantage play a role? Does gender make a difference? These are all questions we can now begin to answer.

PISA results show that the endorsement of a fixed mindset varied widely across countries. This suggests that environment makes a major difference.

Across the board, students who disagreed that “your intelligence is something about you that you can’t change very much” showed higher attainment scores than students who agreed. But there are nuances to explore here, too, in countries where the gaps are smaller – as they generally are across East Asia. Could the culture of diligence in some countries be reducing the impact of growth mindset on achievement by fusing it with ideas around working hard?

The report also looks at questions of student wellbeing, which is predicted by a growth mindset in certain countries, particularly in East Asia. In addition, the report looks at teaching methods, school practices, and education policies, to help paint a clear picture of the different ways growth mindset can be supported and can have an impact on educational life.

Growth mindset isn’t a silver bullet, but it is a useful addition to our toolkit
Of course, education systems can’t rely on a single type of improvement or intervention. But well-tested growth mindset programs can be relatively cost-effective and, when adapted for new cultures, may be administered on a large scale. So it could be used to support and enhance more traditional educational reforms such as restructuring schools or improving teacher training.

As OECD continues to explore growth mindset through PISA, workshops with Carol, and working with fellow laureates Vicky Colbert and Larry Hedges, we’ll keep sharing the findings with you through our news, events, and reports.