Understanding For Whom and Under What Conditions Growth Mindset Interventions Reduce Educational Inequalities: A Nationally-Representative Experiment

Do interventions that promote the idea that intelligence is developed, not fixed, reduce inequalities in math achievement?

Persistent differences exist in math achievement scores across racial and ethnic groups and income levels. In addition to quality of instruction and opportunities to learn, some argue that students’ appraisals of their own abilities, as well as their emotional responses to educational challenges, may contribute to these gaps. Students’ ideas about their abilities are shaped by how teachers praise performance, frame critical feedback, and structure grading policies. Growth mindset interventions attempt to encourage individuals to think about themselves and their context in ways that support learning. The idea that intelligence is developed, not fixed, is hypothesized to help students take full advantage of potential opportunities to learn. If effective, the program could be applied in compensatory ways to benefit targeted groups, and may be particularly beneficial for low-income students or racial groups who are negatively stereotyped by teachers and other students. This study adopts a double-blind randomized controlled trial to test the effectiveness of a growth mindset intervention on a nationally-representative sample of 100 high schools, each providing a census of 9th-graders.