Gender stereotypes are harmful. Many scholars hold the view that gender stereotypic beliefs can undermine students’ math performance. A recent intervention study published in Learning and Instruction strategically combined the reinforcement of gender-equal beliefs with the inculcation of growth mindsets and found promising effects of this joint intervention.
Anti-gender-stereotypic treatments emphasize that boys and girls possess the same potential and can perform equally well in math. Meanwhile, growth mindset training can bolster anti-gender-stereotypic beliefs by focusing on the importance of consistent efforts and deliberate practice. Although past literature has not yet established conclusive evidence on such joint intervention, it has been reported that the interaction between the two treatments has additional benefits for students’ learning motivations.
To fill the gap in literature and provide rigorous evidence on this topic, researchers from South Korea conducted a cluster randomized trial in a public elementary school with 113 students assigned to the intervention group and 90 students assigned to the control group. Students received six 40-minute sessions during a three-month study period. While both intervention and control groups were exposed to hands-on math activities, the intervention program communicated the benefits of adopting growth mindsets and gender-fair beliefs. One example in fostering growth mindsets involved students reading stories about mathematicians’ journeys of overcoming setbacks through diligence and persistence. Similarly, an example in bolstering gender-equal ideals was students guessing a person’s job by their appearance and realizing that gender stereotypes are not necessarily true.
Research results demonstrated that
- There were positive effects on pupils’ growth mindset (ES=+0.44), perceived competence (ES=+0.24), persistence (ES=+0.21), and achievement (ES=+0.42).
- Negative effects were found in gender stereotypic beliefs (ES=-0.57) and test anxiety (ES=-0.19).
The findings of this study provide evidence for the synergistic effects of combining growth mindsets with gender-fair beliefs. Since the intervention took place in a primary school, one possible implication is that interventions in children’s earlier life stages could be more beneficial since they prevent rather than reverse gender-stereotypic beliefs.
Source (Open Access): Lee, J., Lee, H. J., Song, J., & Bong, M. (2021). Enhancing children’s math motivation with a joint intervention on mindset and gender stereotypes. Learning and Instruction, 73, 101416.