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White House Explores Research on Academic Mindsets

As more educators explore the effects of students' attitudes toward intelligence, the Education Department and White House Office of Science and Technology Policy are looking for ways to further research and interventions based on improving students' academic mindsets.

This May, the agencies held a research forum on the effects of perceiving intelligence and skills as innate or "fixed," as opposed to things that can be improved through effort and experience—known as a "growth" mindset.

"There is enough evidence that our national obsession with 'smartness' and 'talent' undermines student learning and thus our national competitiveness, especially when considering achievement in STEM-related fields and among students who face negative intellectual stereotypes," said researchers led by David S. Yeager of the University of Texas at Austin in one paper. "We should ask: Can we redirect the national conversation away from a focus on 'smart' children and toward a focus on 'learning' children?"

For example, the researchers found that students with a growth mindset were more likely than those with a fixed mindset to earn at least 12 credits in their first semester of college. For black students, the improvement was particularly notable:


In a separate analysis, researchers led by Anthony S. Bryk, of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, discussed ways that districts and researchers can use a growth approach to build cycles of ongoing research and improvement in schools.

The White House is looking for more examples of research and interventions focused on improving student motivation and performance by adjusting students' and teachers' academic mindsets.

Want more research news? Follow @SarahDSparks on Twitter for the latest studies, and join the conversation.

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