A study conducted by Washington State University (WSU) has found that notifying students of their instructors’ growth mindset results in better grades for first generation students.

Growth mindset refers to “the belief that abilities are not innate but can be improved.”

WSU psychology researcher and lead author of the study Elizabeth Canning and graduate student Makita White used an 400-student introductory biology class to conduct their research. Dividing the class evenly into an experimental and control group, Canning and White found that first-generation students who received growth mindset emails after taking their initial exams did better in the course overall than students who received standard emails without any mention of the growth mindset.

Averaging one-third of a grade higher, the research showed that first-generation students from the experimental group performed just as well as students whose parents had graduated college, which the release refers to as “continuing-generation” students.

“It’s a pretty sizable effect,” said Canning. “Many studies have shown that continuing generation students outperform first-generation students, but in the condition where we sent emails from the instructor that had growth mindset language, we saw that difference in performance completely go away.”

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Inside Higher Ed
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