Centre for Confidence and Well-being

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Postcards from Scotland

The project

Stanford University, The Centre for Confidence and Well-being, and a number of Scottish schools worked together to conduct a controlled study on how students’ inherent beliefs about their abilities affect their motivation and performance. We hoped to learn more about what influences students’ achievement and what intervention strategies might be helpful within a school setting. 

Research Background
A growing body of research suggests that the way students think about intelligence has an effect on the effort they put into school and the amount of personal responsibility they accept for their success or failure. Students who view intelligence as unchangeable usually do not to push themselves to accomplish challenging tasks because they do not believe that doing so will help them improve. Instead, they think that exuding effort only makes them look incapable to their classmates and teachers. In contrast, students who view intelligence as malleable view effort positively. They realise that working hard increases their abilities over time, and they are much more motivated to take an active role in the learning process.

Study Overview
This study tested how challenging beliefs about ability (the fact that intelligence can grow) affects academic achievement and attitudes towards school. Students learned about the malleable nature of intelligence through an engaging six-week curriculum consisting of a range of stimulating activities. Psychological and performance measures were collected one week before the  programme starts and several weeks after it ended.

Control classes undertook the same pre and post assessments. 


Two summary reports on the research can be downloaded below. One on the primary school research and the other on secondary schools.

 Report on primary school research (84 KB)
 Report on secondary school research (535 KB)

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