Individuals with a firm growth mindset hold the belief that their intelligence can be changed and developed through their own efforts. Such an attitude enables them to be more motivated to work hard, be more persistent in the face of setbacks, and leads them to higher achievements in academic learning. Du and colleagues are interested in whether adopting a story-based approach – asking students to read stories of role models – as a mindset intervention would be effective in enhancing the growth mindsets of young adults-to-be.
In Du et al.’s study, they invited high school, undergraduate and postgraduate students to read stories of role models in a single session, and their mindsets were measured before and after reading the stories. The students were asked to read five short stories, in a row in one session, about great scientists, including physicists, mathematicians, biologists and therapists. The stories were about the important contributions of the scientists and the course to their achievement.
One interesting contrast is that the study used two types of story: story of struggle and story of achievement. Stories of struggle highlighted the setbacks the scientist faced in their career and emphasized their emotional experiences, beliefs, efforts and ultimate outcomes of their life story; but stories of achievement only illustrated the major discoveries and awards of the scientists without mentioning any setbacks in their lives. The mindset scores revealed that stories of struggle were more effective in improving the growth mindsets of undergraduates and graduates, but did not have a significant impact on changing the more fixed mindset of high school students.
The number of stories read also mattered. Undergraduates with low perseverance originally were shown to have a weaker growth mindset than those with high perseverance, but their scores started to improve after reading two or more stories. Their mindset scores ultimately caught up with their high perseverance counterparts after reading five stories of struggle.
Story-based mindset intervention has been shown to be useful in improving the growth mindsets of the young adults-to-be, especially by exposing them to successful people who also faced struggles like themselves before becoming successful, and at the same time, seeing how they persevered and tackled hardships would provide a role model for the youngsters to help them establish a stronger growth mindset.
Du, X., Yuan, S., Liu, Y., & Bai, X. (2021). Reading struggle stories of role models can improve students’ growth mindsets. Frontiers in Psychology (Educational Psychology), 12,747039. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.747039