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How simple online interventions can shift our mindset

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Earlier in the year I wrote about a new project launched by Khan Academy called LearnStorm.  The project takes a game style approach to try and shift the mindset of the learner from the fixed mindset to a growth based one.

The theory is based on the work of Stanford’s Carol Dweck.  To cut a long story short, those with a fixed mindset believe their talents are predetermined and unchangeable, whereas those with a growth mindset believe that with effort, anything can be improved.

A recent study, also out of Stanford, explores how online interventions, like the one delivered by LearnStorm, can help to deliver this shift.

“Two interventions, each lasting about 45 minutes and delivered online, raised achievement in a large and diverse group of underperforming students over an academic semester,” the authors say.

Shifting mindset

The work of Dweck has been fundamental in our greater understanding of achievement in the classroom (and beyond).  The paper suggests that a simple online intervention can not only help students in their classes, but help provide them with the right mindset for life after school.

The researchers trialled two forms of intervention on over 1,500 students.  The first focused on developing a growth mindset, whilst the second focused instead on developing a sense of purpose.

The sense-of-purpose intervention was designed to help students articulate how schoolwork could help them accomplish meaningful life goals.

Both of the interventions were designed to help students, especially those who were struggling, believe they can grow and achieve a great life.

The results revealed that both interventions increased the likelihood that a student would stay on in school and perform well by 6.4 percent.

“The findings suggest the possibility that brief, Internet-based activities like the ones we tested could be used to improve learning outcomes for hundreds of thousands or even millions of students around the country at an extremely low cost,” the authors say.

The growth mindset interventions were very much in line with the thinking of Dweck.  The sense of purpose interventions encouraged students to think about how they could make the world a better place.  In both instances, the results were promising.

“If our short, web-based activities can help students see school as a place where they can grow their abilities and become the kind of person they want to be, and if that change in perspective makes students more motivated and successful, then it seems likely that there are many opportunities in the classroom to send these messages to better engage students,” the authors say.

The theory of the power of mindset has reached almost critical mass within educational circles in recent years, but this study is interesting for the practical demonstrations of its effectiveness.

What’s more, the study highlights how such interventions can be delivered at the kind of scale as to make them incredibly valuable across an entire school network at a low cost.

It’s part of a range of initiatives emerging from the Project for Education Research That Scales (PERTS) at Stanford.

The researchers have published the findings from the research together with the tools used at https://www.mindsetkit.org/growth-mindset

Well worth checking out if you want to explore mindset in more detail.

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