We held a TILE Network webinar in May and hosted Dr Yvonne Skipper who talked about her research into growth and fixed mindsets in school children and students in Higher Education. Yvonne presented three large-scale mindset intervention studies – all conducted in authentic educational settings. In her research, she uses a so-called pre-post design which allows to investigate changes in behaviour or thinking as a consequence of an intervention. In this design, students are accessed before an intervention and then again after the intervention. Changes between pre- and post-intervention measures are then analysed and compared with a group of people who has not experienced the intervention.

Growth versus fixed mindsets

The concept of growth versus fixed mindsets is based on research by Carol Dweck. The idea is that if learners think that their intelligence is fixed and cannot be changed, they are less likely to put in effort to advance their skills and knowledge. They are also less likely to work on challenging tasks – because failing at these would be attributed to insufficient intelligence. Learners with a fixed mindset work towards performance goals and are eager to demonstrate that they can accomplish a task successfully. In contrast, learners with a growth mindset pursue learning goals and are motivated to improve their skills – even if that means that they may fail at times. It has been shown that students who adopt a growth mindset take on more challenging tasks and more successfully overcome obstacles and setbacks. This can have a beneficial effect on academic outcomes.


Growth mindset interventions

In essence, growth mindset interventions aim at raise awareness in learners that intelligence is malleable and that effort can lead to an improvement in skills and knowledge. Interventions teach students that brain structures are ever changing and that as a learner they can take charge of their learning. Yvonne shared studies that showed beneficial effects of growth mindset interventions in school children and students – particularly on variables such as taking on more challenging tasks, adopting a growth mindset, and pursuing learning goals. For the school intervention, the walkthrough booklet it available and a link is provided below.

An innovative intervention and initiative is the ‘White Water Writers’. This programme guides groups of students to write a novel collaboratively within a week and to publish it. It is a way to implicitly introduce a growth mindset because the students experience that they can accomplish something big – like publishing a novel within week – if they invest time and effort. Students report increase in writing skills, teamwork, working under pressure, and communication skills by participating this these novel writing challenges.

Hope this helps!


Carol Dweck’s work on mindsets suggests that people view intelligence in different ways. Some view intelligence as malleable (a growth mindset) while others view it as a stable trait (termed a fixed mindset). Literature has suggested that more of a growth mindset can lead to positive educational outcomes such as holding learning rather than performance goals and persisting following failure.
In this presentation, I will discuss how we have used this framework in three ways. Firstly, we developed a mindset intervention for university students. The intervention group participated in a session which explored brain plasticity, which is a component of growth mindset belief, while the control group learned about memory. Results suggested that the intervention promoted more of a growth mindset and led to more positive learning behaviours. Secondly, we worked with Stoke-on-Trent City Council to co-create a growth mindset toolkit for Year 1 school pupils which aimed to enhance literacy. This light touch intervention was trialled with N=443 pupils from 5 intervention and 4 control schools. Results suggested that the intervention promoted more of a growth mindset and enhanced phonics and sentence reading but not comprehension. Finally, we developed ‘White Water Writers’, an intervention which gives groups of people the opportunity to collaboratively write and publish a full-length novel in a week (www.whitewaterwriters.com). This aims to promote self-belief and literacy. Data from interviews, school results and pre and post-test questionnaires suggests that the project enhances literacy and self-belief.
Taken together these findings suggest that while there is some debate around the theory of mindsets and how the framework fits together, our interventions have had a positive impact on learners.


About the speaker:
Dr Yvonne Skipper recently moved to the University of Glasgow as a Senior Lecturer in Psychology. Her research focusses how we can motivate and engage learners of all ages. She researches topics such as teacher feedback, how peers learn together and why girls drop out of science subjects. She is passionate about moving theory into practice and ensuring that my work has a real-world impact.
She uses a co-creation approach, working closely with partner organisations to bring together psychology and ‘real world’ knowledge to solve educational problems. She has developed of a number of initiatives, such as a toolkit to promote a malleable view of intelligence and ‘White Water Writers’, which gives groups of people the opportunity to write and publish their own novel in a week. You can follow her on Twitter: @YvonneSkipper.