School projects, assignments and tests are piling up and many parents are eager for ideas and interventions to help middle and high-schoolers achieve better grades this semester. Instead of relying on teachers, curriculum, and homework, new research points to grade improvements resulting from a growth mindset.
The growth mindset, pioneered by psychologist Carol Dweck, is the simple yet profound concept that cognitive abilities are not fixed, but can grow, change, develop and improve. For a struggling high school student who has resigned themselves to Ds and Fs, embracing a growth mindset can make all the difference. The same goes for the parent of that poorly-performing student; understanding a growth mindset perspective can help foster hope, encouragement, and positivity.
A person’s mindset refers to how flexible they believe their personality and personal attributes are. One with a fixed mindset doesn’t believe they are able to change much, while a growth mindset is the conviction they can improve or change their attributes. Researchers wanted to evaluate how a person’s mindset can also reflect how resilient they are to stress. More than 1250 undergraduate students were recruited, and scientists evaluated their mindset on anxiety, what stressful events they have experienced, psychological distress, and maladaptive coping techniques via survey/checklist.
The results published in Personality and Individual Differences showed that students with a growth mindset were drastically better at overcoming stress than those with a fixed mindset! Students with a growth mindset reported less psychological stress and fewer maladaptive coping techniques. Those with a fixed mindset reported more psychological distress after a stressful life event and more maladaptive coping techniques. The findings supported previous mindset research and shows that growth mindset works in the same way for anxiety as it does for intelligence/academic performance. If you believe that you are able to adapt to stress and improve yourself the less stress you will feel. Thus a growth mindset is deeply important for overcoming the challenges that life inevitably brings.
Additionally, researchers with the University of Texas at Austin conducted a study with over 6000 low-achieving high school students. Outcomes published in the August edition of Nature showed that a simple online educational program on growth mindset resulted in GPA improvements in core ninth-grade courses. Additionally, there was a post-intervention increase in registration for advanced level math classes.
Eager for a similar intervention to help boost your teens grades? There are many resources and videos available online describing the growth mindset, and a great place to start is right HERE with Carol Dweck’s TED talk on the subject.
By Terissa Michele Miller, MS Psy
Check out the original research:
This article was originally published in Modern Brain Journal.
About the author:
Teri Miller is a mom of nine and child development researcher with a Masters of Science in Psychology. She is a Research Associate at Gibson Institute of Cognitive Research, co-host of the podcast Brainy Moms, and the Managing Editor at Modern Brain Journal.