The Effect of Growth Mindset Training on Third Graders’ Vocabulary Skills and Academic Motivation

Students: Taylor Palmerone, Alexis Parlato, Tess Pieragostini* and Olivia Traina
Mentors: Susan Gannon & Dawn Melzer
Major: Psychology

Growth mindset is an outlook reflecting the idea that with practice and effort, one can improve and excel at a given task (Dweck, 2006). In contrast to fixed mindset, or the belief that talent is something that we are born with, growth mindset interventions that focus on perseverance and effort have been shown to improve student performance in the classroom. In the current study the effect of growth mindset training on third graders’ ability to learn new vocabulary words and improve academic motivation was investigated. Children were randomly assigned to an experimental or control group. The experimental group was given three sessions of growth mindset training that focused on the brain and positive affirmations prior to the vocabulary lessons, while the control group received three sessions of non-mindset related activities. Both the experimental groups and the control groups were then exposed to three sessions of vocabulary lessons where they learned new words and their definitions. All children completed a pre and post vocabulary test, mindset survey and the School Motivation and Learning Strategies Inventory (SMALSI). The SMALSI assesses study skills, academic motivation, and concentration, characteristics that may be related to growth mindset. Findings revealed a significant increase in vocabulary knowledge from the pre-test to the post-test for both the experimental and control groups. Growth mindset interventions did not influence the number of vocabulary words learned by the children. Improvements were found in each SMALSI category though these results were not significant and did not different between the experimental and control groups. Even though exposure to growth mindset content did not play a factor in the children’s performance, overall improvements made in vocabulary, motivation, studying, and concentration indicate that the program was beneficial to all students involved.

*Honors Senior