Pilot Study: What is the impact of explicitly teaching Growth Mindset theory?


Despite the weight of evidence around Growth Mindset as a strong indicator of student achievement, there remains a lack of hard evidence as to how exactly affect that disposition. The EEF trialled various interventions in 2013 and found that the results were not statistically significant. Whilst researchers may be able to observe Growth Mindset as a valid psychological state, how to actually have an impact on that state remains somewhat unclear.

Many Growth Mindset interventions take the form of superficial interpretations of the original research in the form of posters, assemblies and simplistic tasks. This appropriated approach can often lead to students switching off to the core messages behind the research and the interventions not having any real impact.

After our initial year 1 study which sought to get some larger baseline data on exactly what dispositions our students had in these areas, we wanted to ‘zoom in’ and test a specific approach with a smaller group, and look closely at the effect of teaching this theory explicitly as opposed to tangentially.

This pilot study proposes to evaluate the impact of teaching an intervention group of students the theory around Growth Mindset in an academically rigorous way using research literature and articles in the form of a course designed by Harvard faculty of education researchers.

Harvard project year 2.001


Control and intervention groups comprising of year 12 students selected randomly will take a baseline test using Dweck’s scales before and after the study. The intervention group will receive a term’s worth of weekly sessions looking closely at the research on Growth Mindset and applying it to their own context. These sessions will feature explicit instruction of the theory in its raw form, and follow-up coaching conversations with individual students.

Previous studies have shown the efficacy of ‘stealth’ interventions where students were not made to feel stigmatised by being singled out for interventions based on poor attainment, enabling the students to bring more of an open mind to the project. This was an important consideration in this project.


Harvard project year 2.002

Next Steps:

This pilot study was trialled in the winter term and will be evaluated by researchers from Harvard GSE in the spring with the results published later this year. If successful, a larger trial may be rolled out to other year groups and time built into tutorials to use the same approach. This same course is also being run at Highbury Grove under the supervision of head of research Sara Stafford and head teacher Tom Sherrington to be able to test the impact in different contexts.