- The Stanford University neuroscientists studying what educators call "a positive or growth mindset" in 243 students aged 7-9 have found increased efficiency in brain activity during math thinking for students who believe "intelligence or other skills can be improved with training and practice, rather than being fixed and inherent traits."
- Lang Chen, a postdoctoral fellow in cognitive psychology and neuroscience, tells Education Week that the findings "provide strong evidence that a positive mindset contributes to children's math competence."
- And on the other end of the spectrum, the study also found that the opposite of a growth mindset, called a "lower positive-mindset level" or "fixed mindset," was associated with lower math performance.
Hard scientific data about cognitive brain function that further defines the concepts of growth and fixed mindsets will be welcomed by educators, who have long used the terms to describe variant learning styles.
Christine Hertz, a co-author of the book "A Mindset for Learning: Teaching the Traits of Joyful, Independent, Growth," recently told Education Dive that after reading Mindset by Carol Dweck, she "realized that her theory and research – the difference between a fixed and growth mindset – could be the answer to our attempt to redefine "college and career ready … "
Dweck told Education Week that she found the new Stanford data "very, very exciting."
The new study backs up pre-existing research on the same subject. "A study found that teachers that valued multiple strategies for solving problems over speed or memorization were more likely to cultivate a growth mindset in students. That indicates a big shift in teachers' approaches, with less focus on direct instruction and more on problem-solving and iteration."
Another larger, longitudinal study by the same Stanford research team is already underway, and is tracking the attitudes and underlying brain activity changes of 60 students aged 7-12 as they grow, to compare perspectives with performance.