From Marginal Revolution, “Growth Mindset Replicates!”:
In other words, a small, positive effect. But this small effect is coming from a small intervention, two online survey/interventions of 25 minutes each that could be easily scaled to the entire country or even worldwide. We have come a long way from the “mindset revolution” but who am I to discount a marginal revolution? Moreover, the average effect hides heterogeneity, the effect was bigger on the students who needed it most.
Some past opponents of mindset see this as the death of mindset. David Didau has this sort of take in “The nail in Growth Mindset’s coffin?” He says the true parts of mindset are obvious, the false parts the result of magical thinking:
What this might suggest is that students who have previously underachieved improve when told that if they took more responsibility and worked harder they might do better, and that good behaviour makes a positive difference to any intervention. Neither of which are all that surprising.
This seems to me somewhat unfair. It’s good to have research to know the degree and extent to which obvious things can be shown to have an effect. And, as Didau accurately reported, there had been a number of failed replications in the past. This is decidedly not a failed replication.
There are two new papers out on mindset to keep track of. The first is a huge, carefully done experiment. The other is a huge, carefully down meta-analysis of previous studies.
I haven’t read either carefully yet, but I’ve found it interesting to follow researchers discussing the papers. My impression is that methodologically they hold up to scrutiny. Here are some sample tweets:
A really great and careful piece of work that:
1) Shows that "growth mindset" interventions have a real, but very very modest effect;
2) Undercuts the hugely overblown statements about growth mindset that some of these authors have themselves made/encouraged in the past. https://t.co/9myplRcIsw
— Stuart Ritchie (@StuartJRitchie) March 4, 2018
Out today – HUGE, definitive, double meta-analysis of growth mindset! Main results:
1) Correlation of growth mindset with achievement is tiny, r = .1;
2) Effect of growth mindset interventions on achievement is tiny, d = .08. https://t.co/T5ODG7yVXG By @BrookeMacnamara pic.twitter.com/E7xq2ufXoO
— Stuart Ritchie (@StuartJRitchie) March 5, 2018
The average treatment effect is tiny, but the intervention is low-cost, and frankly considering how low-impact the treatment is, a larger causal effect would be implausible
— Patrick S. Forscher (@psforscher) March 4, 2018
Based on these new meta-analyses:
1. Growth mindset has predictive value for achievement, but only very little.
2. Growth mindset interventions increase achievement, but only by a little.
It's not meaningless, just small. We need much fewer hypes and much more rigorous research https://t.co/bhKDqVkGyT
— Tim van der Zee (@Research_Tim) March 6, 2018
Re the meta-analysis:
Just to be clear about how small the average effect of growth mindset interventions are: you would need 2 groups of over 3200 students each just to be able to reliably detect a difference of this size 90% of the time. To detect it 95% of the time you'd need over 8000 students.
— Tim van der Zee (@Research_Tim) March 6, 2018
I don’t entirely stand by this tweet any longer — things don’t feel so confusing now:
So the situation is that skepticism in growth mindset is growing while growth mindset research itself is passing increasingly rigorous tests at scale. This is a confusing state of affairs! https://t.co/hH6TB3j8H5
— Michael Pershan (@mpershan) March 4, 2018
What are the educational implications of all this? I think that the claims about the power of mindset interventions to really have a huge impact on learning now have clearly been contradicted by our best research.
It’s hard to know how to talk about this. Smart teachers and educators always knew that these interventions couldn’t have a huge impact on kids, especially if the rest of the classroom pieces weren’t there. That said, not everyone is smart about this, and there was a time early in my teaching life when I believed the over-simplified story about mindset that I heard.
Jo Boaler and YouCubed are pretty clearly going farther than what evidence dictates. I wish they wouldn’t, and am powerless to stop them, and it makes me sad that they don’t seem to care. Defenses of them seem to come down to “well it’s not true but it’s a net-good message so spread it far and wide!” This is something that goes against all my instincts. I don’t do well with this sort of utility calculation.
Anyway, for an picture of exactly the sort of thing that the evidence does not support now (if it ever did) you can check out this video from Boaler and YouCubed, about how believing in yourself has been scientifically proven to change how your brain works and improve your achievement. Blech:
— Michael Pershan (@mpershan) March 6, 2018
Likewise, I don’t see support for the sort of mindset interventions that are built into the first week of the New Visions math curriculum. There’s some good math in there, and maybe it’s good to talk about growth mindset during that math, I don’t know. It depends on how time-intensive the mindset stuff is, I think.
Where are we headed? Growth mindset is just going to be another high-level name for describing good teaching. It matters, but as a goal, or a value that connects a lot of disparate elements of teaching practice.
It feels like the mindset story is coming to a conclusion with these big, careful studies.