A new study published in PsycNet, the bulletin of the American Psychological Association, reviews the research on “growth mindset” and whether it improves students’ academic achievement. The meta-analysis was conducted by B.N. Macnamara and A.P. Burgoyne.

I was particularly interested in reading this review because one of my grandchildren spent what seemed to be an inordinate amount of time in middle school reading about and discussing “growth mindset.” It reminded me of the book I used to read to my children when they were very young about “The Little Engine That Could.” As it struggled to go up a steep mountain, it said to itself, “I think I can, I think I can.” I didn’t realized at the time that I was teaching my children to have a “growth mindset.”

Here is the abstract:

According to mindset theory, students who believe their personal characteristics can change—that is, those who hold a growth mindset—will achieve more than students who believe their characteristics are fixed. Proponents of the theory have developed interventions to influence students’ mindsets, claiming that these interventions lead to large gains in academic achievement. Despite their popularity, the evidence for growth mindset intervention benefits has not been systematically evaluated considering both the quantity and quality of the evidence. Here, we provide such a review by (a) evaluating empirical studies’ adherence to a set of best practices essential for drawing causal conclusions and (b) conducting three meta-analyses. When examining all studies (63 studies, N = 97,672), we found major shortcomings in study design, analysis, and reporting, and suggestions of researcher and publication bias: Authors with a financial incentive to report positive findings published significantly larger effects than authors without this incentive. Across all studies, we observed a small overall effect: d¯ = 0.05, 95% CI = [0.02, 0.09], which was nonsignificant after correcting for potential publication bias. No theoretically meaningful moderators were significant. When examining only studies demonstrating the intervention influenced students’ mindsets as intended (13 studies, N = 18,355), the effect was nonsignificant: d¯ = 0.04, 95% CI = [−0.01, 0.10]. When examining the highest-quality evidence (6 studies, N = 13,571), the effect was nonsignificant: d¯ = 0.02, 95% CI = [−0.06, 0.10]. We conclude that apparent effects of growth mindset interventions on academic achievement are likely attributable to inadequate study design, reporting flaws, and bias. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved)

I draw the conclusion that reading “The Little Engine That Could” is as effective as growth mindset.