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Growth Mindset for 9th Graders

Growth Mindset for 9th Graders seeks to teach adolescents that intellectual abilities are not fixed but capable of growth with dedicated effort. The program focuses on reducing negative beliefs about effort (e.g., having to try hard or ask for help means you lack ability), fixed-trait attributions (e.g., failure stems from low ability), and performance avoidance goals (e.g., never looking stupid). During regular school hours, students complete two self-administered online sessions that last approximately 25 minutes each and occur roughly 20 days apart. The first session starts in weeks 2-5 of the fall or spring semester, and the second session starts in weeks 5-10 of the same semesters. The sessions include scientific information but also ask students to help in communicating these ideas to others and to apply them to their own life.

The first session covers the basic idea of a growth mindset – that an individual’s intellectual abilities can be developed by taking on challenging work, improving one’s learning strategies, and asking for appropriate help. The second session invites students to deepen their understanding of the growth mindset and its application in their lives. Students are not told outright that they should work hard or employ particular study or learning strategies. Rather, effort and strategy revision are described as general behaviors through which students can develop their abilities and thereby achieve their goals.

Since the intervention is computerized, materials can be delivered as designed without extensive researcher involvement or facilitator training and geographic constraints and logistical burdens are reduced, thereby providing scalable techniques to improve students’ approach to learning and achievement in high school.

Blueprints has certified two studies evaluating Growth Mindset for 9th Graders.

Yeager et al. (2016) conducted a randomized controlled trial with 3,676 ninth-grade students in 10 high schools in 4 states. Participants were randomly assigned to the growth mindset intervention (n=1,646) or to a control group (n=1,630) which completed online sessions providing basic information about the brain. Compared to the control group, intervention participants demonstrated significantly greater improvement on self-reported measures of growth mindset by the end of the second online session. At the end of the semester, GPA was better for intervention students but only for those with low prior achievement. On a related measure of poor grades, the intervention group did significantly better overall than the control group.

Yeager et al. (2019) and Zhu et al. (2019) examined a nationally representative sample of ninth-grade students who were randomly assigned to an intervention group (n=6,700) or a control group (n=6,720), with both groups completing online sessions of differing content. Yeager et al. (2019) focused on 6,320 low-achieving students, while Zhu et al. (2019) focused on the full sample. For both the low-achieving subsample and the full sample, relative to the control group, intervention students showed significantly fewer fixed mindset beliefs at posttest and higher GPAs in core subjects at the end of the school year.

To date, the Washington State Institute for Public Policy has not conducted a cost-benefit analysis of implementing Growth Mindset for 9th Graders.


Yeager, D. S., Hanselman, P., Walton, G. M., Murray, J. S., Crosnoe, R., Muller, C., . . . Dweck, C. S. (2019). A national experiment reveals where a growth mindset improves achievement. Nature573, 364-369.

Yeager, D. S., Romero, C., Paunesku, D., Hulleman, C., Schneider, B., Hinojosa, C., . . . Dweck, C. S. (2016). Using design thinking to improve psychological interventions: The case of the growth mindset during the transition to high school. Journal of Educational Psychology108(3), 374-391.

Zhu, P., Garcia, I., Boxer, K., Wadhera, S., & Alonzo, E. (2019).  Using a growth mindset intervention to help ninth-graders: An independent evaluation of the National Study of Learning Mindsets. MDRC.

Read the Program Fact Sheet


Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development
University of Colorado Boulder
Institute of Behavioral Science
UCB 483, Boulder, CO 80309


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Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development is
currently funded by Arnold Ventures (formerly the Laura and John Arnold Foundation) and historically has received funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.