Changing Mindsets (re-grant)
The Changing Mindsets project taught Year 6 pupils about the malleability of intelligence by training teachers to deliver weekly workshops and through digital classroom resources, such as case studies about overcoming adversity. The project was delivered by Portsmouth University.
Testing whether teacher-led sessions can encourage pupils to adopt a “growth mindset”
Character & essential skills
The Growth Mindset approach is widely known in UK schools, with the effects on pupils’ attainment and learning motivation investigated in the empirical literature through experimental research designs and school-based interventions.
The EEF funded an initial study of Changing Mindsets which evaluated teacher training in the “growth mindset approach” and workshops delivered directly to pupils that encouraged them to adopt growth mindsets in primary schools. While there was no evidence of impact from the teacher training, there was some evidence of promise for pupil workshops.
The second evaluation of Changing Mindsets combined the approaches of the previous study by providing pupil resources alongside teacher training. The study found no evidence that the intervention had impacts on children’s literacy or numeracy progress at National Key stage 2 tests, compared to pupils in the control group. The programme was delivered as intended and the findings have a high security rating.
One explanation for the absence of a measurable impact on pupil attainment is the widespread knowledge of growth mindset messages: many staff members were aware of similar approaches prior to their involvement in this project, even if they had not used them directly in their teaching. Another explanation is that Growth Mindset approaches take longer to embed.
Given the results of these studies and the limited number of evaluations of growth mindset interventions in English classrooms, teachers should be cautious about using growth mindsets alone as a way of boosting pupil attainment. EEF has no plans for a further trial of Changing Mindsets.
Pupils in schools that received the intervention did not make any additional progress in literacy nor numeracy—as measured by the national Key Stage 2 tests in reading, grammar, punctuation, and spelling (GPS), and maths—compared to pupils in the control group. This finding has high security.
This evaluation also examined four measures of non-cognitive skills: intrinsic value, self-efficacy, test anxiety, and self-regulation. The evaluation did not find evidence of an impact on these measures for pupils in schools that received Changing Mindsets. A positive impact was found for the intrinsic value measure, but the impact was small and was not statistically significant.
Among pupils eligible for free school meals (‘FSM pupils’), those in schools that received the intervention did not make any additional progress in literacy nor numeracy—as measured by the national Key Stage 2 tests in reading, GPS, and maths—compared to FSM pupils in schools that did not receive the intervention.
One explanation for the absence of a measurable impact on pupil attainment is the widespread use of the growth mindset theory. Most teachers in the comparison schools (that did not receive the intervention) were familiar with this, and over a third reported that they had attended training days based on the growth mindset approach.
Full project description
The Changing Mindsets project aimed to improve attainment outcomes at the end of primary school by teaching Year 6 pupils that their brain potential was not a fixed entity but could grow and change through effort exerted. The programme, delivered by Portsmouth University, taught pupils about the malleability of intelligence through workshops. Teachers attended short professional development courses on approaches to developing a ‘growth mindset’ before delivering sessions to pupils weekly, over eight consecutive weeks. Teachers were encouraged to embed aspects of the growth mindset approach throughout their teaching—for example, when giving feedback outside of the sessions. They were also given access to digital classroom resources, such as a video case study of Darwin overcoming adversity in his own life, as a practical example of the importance of having a growth mindset.
The project was a randomised controlled trial (RCT) and included 101 schools and 5018 pupils across England, assigned to either intervention or control groups. The trial ran from September 2016 to February 2017. The process evaluation involved interviews with teachers, focus groups with pupils receiving the intervention, lesson observations, and surveys of both treatment schools and control groups throughout the course of the intervention.