Developmental Stage

Publication Type

Results: Ferguson, Ron

This article reports findings from the largest-ever randomized controlled trial of a growth mindset program in the United States in K-12 settings. The study combined a test for cause-and-effect (a randomized experiment) with a sample that enables claims about an entire population (a nationally representative probability sample). The study found that a short (less than one hour), online growth mindset intervention—which teaches that intellectual abilities can be developed—improved grades among lower-achieving students and increased enrollment in advanced mathematics courses among both higher- and lower-achieving students in a nationally representative sample of regular public high schools in the United States. Notably, the study identified school contexts that moderated the effects of the growth mindset intervention: the intervention had a stronger effect on grades when peer norms aligned with the messages of the intervention. In addition to its rigorous design, the study also featured independent data collection and processing, pre-registration of analyses, and corroboration of results by a blinded Bayesian analysis.

There is growing agreement that scores on standardized tests of academic skills are incomplete measures of the important things that students learn from their teachers. This report relies upon data from over 300,000 Tripod student surveys administered in more than 16,000 sixth to ninth grade classrooms, 490 schools, 26 districts, 14 states, and in all major regions of the nation during the 2013-14 school year. The report concerns the influence of teaching on agency-related factors, defined as emotions, motivations, mindsets, and behaviors associated with personal agency.

The report uses classroom-specific student responses concerning the Tripod 7Cs™ of effective teaching—care, confer, captivate, clarify, consolidate, challenge, and classroom management. The central finding is that the 7Cs predict untested agency-related factors in nuanced and interesting ways. For example, while previous research found that challenge and classroom management are the strongest predictors of reading and math test score gains, the new study finds that care and captivate are the strongest predictors of whether a teacher inspires college aspirations. Based upon an extensive statistical analysis, the report identifies some teaching practices that are agency boosters, and others that are agency dampers. It distills ten implications for teaching to cultivate agency.