Are growth mindset programs a waste of money to taxpayers and schools?
New research from Case Western Reserve University finds that growth mindset programs generally provide only "tiny" gains comparative to their results, based on 29 studies of over 57,000 students where results ranged from negative gains to large growth, according to The Hechinger Report.
Overall, the researchers calculated an effect size of only a 0.08 increase, noting that students in low-income families increased 4 times to 0.35, but cautioning that very few studies stated the socioeconomic status of the students, and that they couldn’t say the results were worth the money spent.
Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, who promoted growth mindset in a 2014 TED Talk, states that you can’t compare lab-studied benchmarks to real students in real classrooms with large sample sizes, while educational economist Susan Dynarski from the University of Michigan suggests that while an effect size of less than 0.1 is tiny, you really have to compare it to cost.
More studies on the subject are ongoing. The federal government is funding a $3.5 million study of 2,400 middle schoolers in California and New York to determine if an online program works for those students. Dweck herself is involved in a study of 20,000 high school students. Ultimately, it could be a matter of identifying which students are helped most and leveraging the programs to focus on those students. Depending on cost, that may be beneficial. There is no one-size-fits-all program, though, that will be beneficial to all students.
Jessica Schleider, a psychology fellow at Yale Medical School, experimented with growth mindset, as well. But she used it to help students with depression or anxiety. The results of her study show the program works for students with depression, but didn’t work for those with anxiety. This is another example of how the program may be beneficial to some but not others. Utilizing that information to help that subset of students will ultimately be at a lesser cost per student, because money isn't going to students who wouldn't benefit.
The success of the program also relies on adoption by school administrators and teachers. If they believe it can work, it has more of a chance of actually working. It’s important that the adults use the proper language, as well as implement it correctly. If the educators and administrators aren’t on board, then the students won’t be, either.
- The Hechinger Report Should Taxpayers and Schools Invest in Growth Mindset Programs?
- The Hechinger Report Telling Depressed Kids They're Capable of Change Might Help Them Improve
- Mindset Scholars Network National Study of Learning Mindsets