Mindset Training Is a Bust

“Mindset training” is a trendy practice designed to help students—especially marginalized students—do better in school by teaching them that their brainpower is not fixed forever, but can grow and change with effort. This is called a “growth mindset.”

But does it work? Several smallish studies have suggested it might, so recently a British team conducted a larger, more rigorous study. Without further ado, here are the results:

The effect was zero on every single metric. In fact, there was nothing even close to a significant effect. The mindset training simply produced nothing.

The more I read about education, the more I think everyone should give in and just admit that conservatives have it largely right. Direct instruction works. Phonics works. Discipline works. This doesn’t mean that classes have to be dreary rote drills all the time, but it does mean that most learning happens in pretty ordinary ways. Maybe that will change once we all have chips implanted in our brains, but that day is not yet.

UPDATE: I changed the penultimate sentence slightly to remove the impression that nothing has changed since the days of togas and wax tablets.


Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2019 demands.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.