Double meta-analysis on Growth Mindset: how big are the effects really?

It has been quite a Mindset-week as earlier this week I wrote this post on a new big well performed study. But there is more, as also this week a new double meta-analysis was published on the same intervention.

Stuart Ritchie summarized the study as follows:

But maybe the best summary comes from the authors of the study themselves:

Some researchers have claimed that mind-set interventions can “lead to large gains in student achievement” and have “striking effects on educational achievement” (Yeager & Walton, 2011, pp. 267 and 268, respectively). Overall, our results do not support these claims. Mind- set interventions on academic achievement were non- significant for adolescents, typical students, and students facing situational challenges (transitioning to a new school, experiencing stereotype threat). How- ever, our results support claims that academically high- risk students and economically disadvantaged students may benefit from growth-mind-set interventions (see Paunesku et al., 2015; Raizada & Kishiyama, 2010), although these results should be interpreted with caution because

(a) few effect sizes contributed to these results,

(b) high-risk students did not differ significantly from non-high-risk students, and

(c) relatively small sample sizes contributed to the low-SES group.

The results do not support the claim that mind-set interventions benefit both high- and low-achieving students (e.g., see Mindset Scholars Network4). Mind-set interventions are relatively low cost and take little time, so there may be a net benefit for students’ academic achievement. However, there may be a detriment relative to fixed-mind-set conditions when students are confident in their abilities (Mendoza-Denton et al., 2008). Regardless, those seeking more than modest effects or effects for all students are unlikely to find them. To this end, policies and resources targeting all students might not be prudent.

This week I had a few talks about this on- and offline. As written in the summary some colleague researchers argued that a mindset intervention can be extremely low-cost, so that even a very small effect is to be welcomed. I think this meta-analysis adds more than enough food for thought, even for this point of view.

Abstract of the meta-analyses:

Mind-sets (aka implicit theories) are beliefs about the nature of human attributes (e.g., intelligence). The theory holds that individuals with growth mind-sets (beliefs that attributes are malleable with effort) enjoy many positive outcomes—including higher academic achievement—while their peers who have fixed mind-sets experience negative outcomes. Given this relationship, interventions designed to increase students’ growth mind-sets—thereby increasing their academic achievement—have been implemented in schools around the world. In our first meta-analysis (k = 273, N = 365,915), we examined the strength of the relationship between mind-set and academic achievement and potential moderating factors. In our second meta-analysis (k = 43, N = 57,155), we examined the effectiveness of mind-set interventions on academic achievement and potential moderating factors. Overall effects were weak for both meta-analyses. However, some results supported specific tenets of the theory, namely, that students with low socioeconomic status or who are academically at risk might benefit from mind-set interventions.

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