“In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.” (Dweck, 2015). Eskwelabs’ education model is based on building a growth mindset for our learners. With that, we want to provide data-backed evidence on why the growth mindset is so important.
“Your intelligence is something about you that you can’t change very much.”
One dataset that is often cited in education is the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), administered by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Since 2000, the OECD has tested 15-year-olds around the world on mathematics, reading, and science, which covered more than half a million students across 72 countries.
In 2018, the PISA study asked students all around the world if their intelligence is something about them that they can’t change very much. More than 1 in 2 students agreed with that statement and in the Philippines and Indonesia for instance, 60% of students agreed or strongly agreed with the statement. This is alarming as those who agree with this statement are less likely to make the investments in themselves that are necessary to succeed in school and in life. This was reflected in the educational outcome of those students, who scored 32 points lower in reading than students who did not agree, after accounting for the socio-economic profile of students and schools.
In PISA 2018, the students who disagreed with the statement or in other words, those with a growth mindset, reported greater motivation to master tasks and self-efficacy, set more ambitious learning goals for themselves, attached greater importance to school, and were more likely to expect to complete a university degree.
These findings are consistent with results from previous PISA tests. In PISA 2012, students were asked if they agreed that their academic results were fixed (“I do badly whether or not I study”) or if they could be changed through personal effort (“If I put in enough effort I can succeed” or “If I wanted to, I could do well”). Students with a strong growth mindset outperformed students with a fixed mindset by 9 to 17 percent, depending on which region they came from.
In a 2015 McKinsey study, machine learning techniques were applied to identify factors that play a critical role in student achievement found that students’ mindsets matter much more than their socioeconomic background. The feature discovery tool identified the 100 most predictive variables—out of more than 1,000—from the PISA survey. These features were then sorted into five categories: home environment, school resources and leadership, teachers and teaching, student behaviors, and student mindset. (see footnotes for methodology).
In the study, variables related to mindsets were divided into two types: “subject orientation” and “general mindsets.” Subject orientation refers to students’ attitudes about science as a discipline, while general mindsets refer to a student’s broader sense of belonging, motivation, and expectations.
The research concluded that student mindsets are twice as predictive of students’ PISA scores than even their home environment. This finding was consistent across the world in all regions.
Eskwelabs’ motto is that “Talent is everywhere but opportunity is not.” We recognize that mindset does not account for everything. Mindsets cannot bridge the gap in all economic and social disparities. What the data demonstrate to us is that mindsets do matter. The right mindsets can catapult us into new careers and new life trajectories, regardless of our challenging circumstances.
Research methodology: Each category was composed of several sub-variables. For example, home environment included parent education and occupation, home and cultural possessions, language at home, and immigration status. Student behaviors included skipping school, activities before school, and ICT use out of school. School factors included class size, school size, school resource level and funding, and school autonomy. Teacher factors included teacher qualifications, teacher professional development, and teaching practices.
*Regions include: Asia–Pacific; Europe; Latin America; the Middle East and North Africa (MENA); and North America