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Running head: MINDSETS AND BRAINOLOGY

Mindsets and Brainology: Self-Theories of Intelligence and an Intervention

Kathryn W. Boehm EG536V: Action Research Lipscomb University July 25, 2012

MINDSETS AND BRAINOLOGY

Abstract The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of the software program Brainology (n.d.) on student mindsets and math achievement scores. Students with a fixed mindset held that intelligence could never be changed; whereas, students with a growth mindset believed that intelligence could grow with effort. The study used a quasi-experimental, mixed-methods approach, wherein 62 seventh graders were provided the opportunity to experience the online software program Brainology (n.d.). The participants were enrolled in a low socio-economic status middle school. Students who completed all four levels of the program formed the experimental group, and the remainder comprised the control. The students in the experimental group demonstrated a greater tendency toward a growth mindset, and most students with an initial fixed mindset developed a growth mindset by the end of the study. The results of the achievement portion of the study were mixed. Fewer than half of the students who completed Brainology (n.d.) with a growth mindset showed increased achievement scores. On the other hand, the great majority of students who had a growth mindset and additional math instruction improved their scores. The study concluded that the combination of challenging instruction and a growth mindset led to improved scores. The recommendation was that teachers educate themselves about mindsets and foster growth mindsets in challenging classrooms. Further research would include following these students for a longer time or comparing their achievement scores to those from another similar school.

MINDSETS AND BRAINOLOGY Chapter 1 Introduction Statement of the Problem

Vanderbilt University Professor Dr. Tamra Stambaughs primary research field has been gifted education and the effect of accelerated curriculum, with a focus on low-income students (Vanderbilt University, n.d.). Dr. Stambaugh held that a fixed mindset could be just as detrimental to the gifted child as it would be to the low-performing student, because students with fixed mindsets have demonstrated a tendency to give up when faced with challenging problems. These students believed that they simply werent intelligent enough to succeed (personal communication, June 13, 2010). The problem with possessing a fixed mindset was that it led to defeatism in the classroom and lower student achievement. Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study was two-fold. The first purpose of the study was to measure the participating students mindsets both before and after the intervention in order to determine the effect of the Brainology (n.d.) software on mindset. Secondly, the study compared the students predicted levels of achievement on TCAP, as determined by Discovery Education Assessments (DEA), with the actual level of achievement on TCAP, in order to examine whether or not students with a newly developed growth mindset achieved at a higher than predicted level on the TCAP. Significance of the Study Educators in urban schools have faced a persistent achievement gap between white students and students of color (USDOE, 2009). Obtaining a quality education has traditionally been the most direct road out of poverty, yet many low socio-economic status (low-SES)

MINDSETS AND BRAINOLOGY

students failed to complete their education. If simply possessing a growth mindset leads to higher academic achievement and if changing the mindsets of students into growth mindsets can be accomplished by utilizing Brainology (n.d.), which can feasibly be implemented in any school, then educators would possess a powerful approach to narrowing the achievement gap. Theoretical Framework Dr. Carol Dweck, a Stanford University professor of psychology, has studied selftheories of learning since the early 1980s. Dwecks more recent work supported a statistically significant connection between the students self-theory of intelligence, or mindset, and academic achievement. In Implicit Theories of Intelligence Predict Achievement across an Adolescent Transition: A Longitudinal Study and an Intervention, Blackwell, Trzesniewski, and Dweck, (2007) demonstrated that an incremental theory, or growth mindset, in seventh grade students predicted an upward trend in academic achievement over the course of seventh and eighth grade. This result was compelling, but it begged the question: Could mindset be changed to create conditions which were conducive to success? These same researchers also focused on two groups of low-achieving seventh graders in New York City. A time-consuming, eight-week intervention was undertaken with these students. The experimental group showed marked improvement in mathematics achievement and learned that their brains can get stronger, like a muscle. Research Questions Using the software rendered the intervention engaging and enjoyable for the students, and it made the research process manageable; in fact, the school computer teacher managed the entire intervention on behalf of this researcher. This study addressed the following two questions:

MINDSETS AND BRAINOLOGY

1) Did the seventh graders who completed the study have a growth mindset afterward, or did they view intelligence as immutable and innate? 2) Did completing the software program, Brainology (n.d.), result in statistically significant gains in seventh grade math scores on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP), as compared with students who did not complete Brainology (n.d.)? Hypotheses Completing the Brainology (n.d.) software program will lead to a statistically significant increase in the number of students who possess a growth mindset. Student entries in the software journal will reveal changes in mindset and evidence that students had learned specific study skills. Students will report fewer challenges to learning upon completion of Brainology (n.d.). Students took three Discovery Education Assessments throughout the school year, and these assessments predict achievement levels on TCAP. Students who complete Brainology (n.d.) and develop a growth mindset will exceed expected levels of achievement on the TCAP Math test. Delimitation Prior to data collection, the school administration decided to group students according to demonstrated performance on DEA assessments. Higher-achieving students were given two additional math classes per week. This practice was called double-dosing, and the student grouping was considered in the data analysis for this study. Literature Search procedures The focal point of the search was Black, Trzesniewski, and Dwecks 2007 study; therefore, the search involved an ERIC keyword search, looking for articles on middle school

MINDSETS AND BRAINOLOGY students, mathematics achievement, low-income students, self-theories of intelligence,

attribution theory, and achievement gap. Searching on any one of the above keywords yielded so many articles that the logical AND connector was utilized to combine search terms in various ways and narrow the results. The articles were written between the mid-1970s and the present. The search results led to an understanding of attribution theory of intelligences development as a research topic. C. S. Dwecks name came up frequently, both in the ERIC search and in the reference sections of articles. An ERIC search for the author name Dweck revealed 35 articles either authored or co-authored by C. S. Dweck between 1975 and the present. The abstracts for those articles traced Dwecks progression as a researcher from 1975 to the present. Dweck was clearly a well-known, frequently cited expert in her field. This phase of the research placed the questions of this study in the educational research tradition and clarified Dwecks place in that tradition. Dwecks publication, Self-theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development (2000) turned up in the search. The chapter entitled Is Intelligence Fixed or Changeable? Students Theories about Their Intelligence Foster Their Achievement Goals was particularly useful in understanding the development of Dwecks ideas. Black, Trzesniewski, and Dwecks 2007 study flowed naturally out of the research cited in this particular essay. The reference section of the 2007 study included sources ranging in date from 1961 to 2006. J. Aronson was clearly a key researcher, and he contributed to a study on racial stereo-typing (Aronson, Cohen, McColskey, Montrosse, Lewis, & Mooney, 2009). The greatest struggle was finding full-text publications of Dwecks work; however, Dwecks Stanford University webpage listed numerous articles with full-text links and complete publication information. Dwecks web site was a valuable resource.

MINDSETS AND BRAINOLOGY

The professional publications, Educational Leadership (ASCD) and Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School (NCTM), were available online and were an additional resource for useful articles. The Jensen book, Teaching with Poverty in Mind (2009), included a wealth of useful information related to working with low-SES students. The U. S. Department of Educations National Center for Education Statistics (2010) contained all of the data necessary to define and examine the Achievement Gap. Finally, this author had a Brainology subscription and was able to experience the software and access the entire website. Self-Theories of Intelligence, or Mindsets Throughout the abstracts of numerous research pieces which preceded the 2007 study, there were multiple references to the terms learned helplessness vs. mastery, learning goals vs. mastery goals, and entity theorist vs. incremental theorist. There has been an evolution of terminology in the research over the years. According to Dweck, each student has an implicit theory, or self-theory, of intelligence. That is, we each have an underlying notion of the nature of our own intelligence. This notion is the self-theory of intelligence. There are two essential types of self-theory of intelligence. A student who holds an entity theory of intelligence believes that intelligence is a fixed quantity and that each person possesses a given amount of intelligence. An incremental theory of intelligence reflects the belief that intelligence is changeable and that a person can become more intelligent through effort, concentration, experience and other factors (Dweck, 2000). Dweck now refers to an entity theory of intelligence as a fixed mindset and an incremental theory as a growth mindset (2009). In this paper, entity theory and fixed mindset were used interchangeably, as were incremental theory and growth mindset.

MINDSETS AND BRAINOLOGY Chapter 2 Review of Literature The Middle School Student

Prior to 1963, junior high school was exactly like high school, except with younger students. There was no concept that the young adolescents developmental and academic needs might differ in quality from those of the high school student. The middle school movement in the U.S. began in 1963 with a landmark address by William Alexander of George Peabody College, and the number of middle schools in the U.S. has exploded since that time. In 1970, there were 2,080 middle schools; there were 10,944 in 1998 and nearly 12,000 by 2002 (Armstrong, 2006). Alexander recognized the need for middle schools which would address the developmental needs of the young adolescent. According to Armstrong: Educators need to understand the developmental needs of young adolescents, and in particular their neurological, social, emotional, and metacognitive growth. Some of these developmental needs are ignored or subverted by inappropriate educational practices such as fragmented curricula, large impersonal schools, and lesson plans that lack vitality. Practices at the best schools honor the developmental uniqueness of young adolescents, including the provision of a safe school environment, student-initiated learning, student roles in decision making, and strong adult role models. (Armstrong, 2006, p. 113) In our current educational environment, with the strong emphasis on standards and test scores, we have run the risk of removing student-initiative from the learning process. Middle school students who have had little input into the learning process and who were viewed as mere receivers of knowledge have disengaged from their own learning, disowned the process, and sought stimulation outside of the school walls.

MINDSETS AND BRAINOLOGY

All young adolescents experienced the awkwardness of impending puberty, exploding cognitive development, increasing self-consciousness and emotional unevenness, yet minority students carried the additional burden of negative racial stereotypes (Aronson, Cohen, McColskey, Montrosse, Lewis, & Mooney, 2009). These students may have attributed their natural academic struggles to these stereotypes. These researchers had concrete recommendations for mitigating the negative effects of stereotypes. First, teach and emphasize that intelligence grows stronger like a muscle. Greater effort would result in greater intellectual growth. Also, explain to children that their difficulties are the result of a normal learning curve, not attributable to the student or the students racial group. Finally, assist students in identifying values outside of school which contribute positively to the individuals self-esteem (Aronson, et al., 2009). The study of racial stereotyping supported Dwecks call for developing a growth mindset. Such a mindset not only improved academic achievement, but it was also an antidote for racial or gender stereotyping (Dweck, 2006). There were informal ways to encourage a growth mindset and tap into students individual strengths. One useful technique was to draw a parallel between school work and students extracurricular activities. Students frequently believed that practice and effort would lead to improvement in sports, music, or art but not in academics. Pointing out this dichotomy to students and referring to homework as practice and the teacher as academic coach might have encouraged a growth mindset (Atwood, 2010). Middle school children have striven for competence in all areas of their lives, and, although their growth was naturally uneven, they wanted to be trusted and given responsibilities whenever appropriate. They also needed support and a sense of safety in case they failed to meet expectations. The developmental changes which occurred during middle school could enhance

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the learning process when educators possessed a deep understanding of the middle school child. The difficulties inherent in middle school education became opportunities for growth. The Achievement Gap in Mathematics There has been a well-documented and persistent achievement gap in standardized test scores, not only between white students and students of color, but also between students in lowpoverty schools vs. students in high-poverty schools. According to The Condition of Education: 2000-2010 (U. S. Department of Education, 2010), an internet publication of the United States Department of Education (USDOE) National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), in 2009 white eighth-graders scored an average of 32 points higher than their black counterparts on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), despite the fact that both groups showed improvement over the previous year. This achievement gap has existed at least since 1992 (USDOE, 2009). NCES reported that in 2005 the average fourth-grade score on the mathematics NAEP assessment was 221 for students in schools with greater than 75% free or reduced lunch and 255 for schools in which the free or reduced lunch rate was less than 10% (USDOE, 2009). Not only was there an achievement gap in mathematics scores on the NAEP, but the U.S. also lagged behind other developing nations on the Trends in Mathematics and Science Study, particularly in the area of measurement. Middle school students have not been exposed to enough hands-on measurement activities and classroom experiences which required higher-order thinking skills or which integrated measurement in math and science (Thompson & Preston, 2004). Eric Jensen delineated the effects of poverty on brain development in both the emotional and intellectual realms. He described the practical difficulties that low-SES parents have. For example, they may have had to work multiple jobs or long hours, and so they didnt have

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adequate time to spend with their children. The parents were often stressed or even depressed, and, thus, not emotionally available to their children. It was common for parents to work nights, for example, and for children in fifth grade or younger to get up on their own, dress for school, lock the house, and walk to the bus stop or to school. The children themselves didnt develop a full range of emotions, and the children may have lived in dangerous neighborhoods or difficult home situations which overdeveloped the amygdala and made the children overly emotional. Meanwhile, the other areas of the brain, such as the visual cortex, temporal lobe, parietal lobe, and occipital lobe, didnt develop as many neurological connections as the brains of higherSES children. Thus, lower-SES children experienced diminished cognitive capacity. In response to this bleak outlook for student outcomes, however, Jensen proposed that schools foster an enrichment mind-set: Your school will get results only when you and your staff shift your collective mind-set from those poor kids to our gifted kids. Stop thinking remediation and start thinking enrichment. The enrichment mind-set means fostering intellectual curiosity, emotional engagement, and social bonding . . . . Essentially, the enrichment mind-set means maximizing students and staff members potential, whatever it takes. Whether or not students choose to go to college, enrichment programs prepare them to succeed in life. (Jensen, 2009, p. 94) This enrichment mind-set was a classroom and school-wide approach designed to create a learning environment which would mitigate the effects of poverty and accelerate student learning. Considering that Jensen did not cite Dweck, he defined mind-set differently than she; rather, he was concerned with students attitudes, academic capacities, and thought-processes about school.

MINDSETS AND BRAINOLOGY How Does Mindset Affect Learning and Achievement?

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In 1981, Dweck, Bandura and Leggett embarked on a series of studies regarding selftheories of intelligence. The framing question was: Why do students become so focused on grades? Students were asked to agree or disagree with statements such as Your intelligence is something about you that you cant change very much; you can learn new things but you cant really change your basic intelligence; and you have a certain amount of intelligence and you cant really do much to change it (Dweck, 2000, p. 21). Students were classified as either entity theorists or incremental theorists based on their responses. Later, students were given three choices: one activity which was described as so simple that students probably wouldnt make mistakes, the second was described as a bit harder but a chance to demonstrate intelligence, and the third was described as hard, new, and different you might get confused and make mistakes, but you might learn something new and useful (Dweck, 2000, p. 21). In the study with eighth graders, over 80% of the entity theorists chose one of the first two tasks, and 50% chose the easier task. That is, only 20% of the entity theorists chose the learning-oriented, more challenging task. On the other hand, 60% of the incremental theorists chose the more difficult, learning-goal task. This type of result was consistent over multiple studies, ranging from fifth and sixth graders to college students to English-language learners in Hong Kong (Dweck, 2000). Dweck has performed or reviewed multiple studies which indicate that a students self-theory of intelligence is deeply and integrally related to the students learning goals, motivation and willingness to take on academic challenges. Having determined that there is a relationship between mindset and learning goals, Dweck moved on to exploring the connection between mindset and achievement. In 2007,

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Blackwell, Trzesniewski, and Dweck undertook a research project involving two studies. In the first study (Study 1), the sample was 373 seventh grade students, in four cohort waves, who were all enrolled in public schools in the New York City area. The sample was diverse racially and economically, and it was gender-balanced. These students standardized test scores were moderately high, at about the 75th percentile on average, and 53% of the students were eligible for free or reduced lunch (FRL). At the beginning of seventh grade, each student was given a questionnaire in order to determine the individuals mindset, as well as other information about student motivation and effort. Self-theory of intelligence was measured using a six-point scale with a score of 1 representing a pure entity theorist and 6 indicating a pure incremental theorist. The mean score was 4.45, and the standard deviation was 0.97. The students sixth grade math achievement scores were available to the researchers as a baseline measure. The measure of mathematics achievement was student grades at the end of the fall and the spring semesters during seventh and eighth grade. Thus, Dweck and her colleagues obtained data for four waves, or cohorts, of seventh graders over the course of two years each. A statistical analysis was undertaken in order to determine the academic growth trajectories of the incremental theorists and the entity theorists. The results are best represented in graphical form, as seen in Figure 1. Note: Adapted from Implicit theories of intelligence predict achievement across an adolescent transition: A longitudinal study and an intervention, in Child Development, 78(1), Blackwell, Trzesniewski, and Dweck, 2007, p. 251

MINDSETS AND BRAINOLOGY Intervention and Results

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The second phase of the 2007 study (Study 2) addressed the following hypothesis: If the different theories of intelligence are indeed associated with contrasting motivational patterns, then teaching students to think of their intelligence as malleable should cause them to display more positive motivation in the classroom, and in turn to achieve more highly. (Blackwell, Trzesniewski, and Dweck, 2007, p. 253) The sample in Study 2 was markedly different from the sample in Study 1. There were 91 seventh grade students who completed the study, all enrolled in a public school in New York City, which was a different school than the school in Study 1. The sample was gender-balanced and racially diverse; however, this group was low-achieving, with sixth-grade math achievement scores at the 35th national percentile. The schools FRL percentage was 79%, as compared to 53% for the school in Study 1. As in Study 1, students were given a six-point questionnaire to determine self-theory of intelligence with, again, a score of 1 indicating a perfect entity theorist and 6 a perfect incremental theorist. After the initial assessment, the students were divided into experimental (N = 48) and control groups (N = 43). Sixteen research assistants were assigned to perform an eight-week intervention, holding workshops during a time normally reserved for students to receive extra help. The experimental group and control group both received four sessions on brain structure, study skills, and the negative results of stereotyping. The experimental group also had four sessions entitled You Can Grow Your Intelligence, Neural Network Maze, Learning Makes You Smarter, and labels should be avoided; whereas, the control group had lessons on mnemonic devices, academic difficulties and successes, and memory and the brain (Blackwell, Trzesniewski, and Dweck, 2007, p. 255).

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Post-intervention analysis was in-depth and statistically thorough. Students were reassessed three weeks later to measure self-theory of intelligence. They were also given an assessment over the content of the intervention lessons. Although students scores over the general workshop content didnt vary significantly73.0% for the experimental group and 70.5% for the control group, students in the experimental group, as expected, scored significantly higher83.5% vs. 53.9%on items which covered the incremental theory intervention content (Blackwell, Trzesniewski, and Dweck, 2007, p. 256). The researchers also measured the effect of the intervention on students self-theories of intelligence. For the experimental group, there was a statistically significant increase in the mean score for self-theory4.36 to 4.95; whereas, the control groups scores were 4.62 pre-intervention and 4.68 post-intervention, not a statistically significant change (Blackwell, Trzesniewski, and Dweck, 2007). The most startling result is readily seen in the following graph (Figure 3) of mathematics achievement. The intervention occurred between the second and third points on the graph, and the measure was students mathematics grades.

Note: Adapted from Implicit theories of intelligence predict achievement across an adolescent transition: A longitudinal study and an intervention, in Child Development, 78(1), Blackwell, Trzesniewski, and Dweck, 2007, p. 257.

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The abrupt upward trajectory in student math achievement after the intervention was clearly delineated (Blackwell, Trzesniewski, and Dweck, 2007). Study 2, however, did not have the longitudinal aspect of Study 1, and it would have been instructive to follow these students for a longer time. On the other hand, given the results of Study 1, it was reasonable to hypothesize that students in Study 2 who were incremental theorists post-intervention would continue to follow a positive achievement trajectory. The results of this study were encouraging and impressive; however, there were drawbacks inherent in this type of interventiontime and resources. Sixteen research assistants were trained to implement the intervention workshops. Granted, the intervention appeared to have been successful, but what school or school system would have resources to implement such a program? It is possible that finances, time issues and lack of teacher buy-in would stop the program before it could begin. Brainology: Both a measure and an intervention Dweck and her associates have developed a web-based software program called Brainology (n.d.), which not only measures the students mindset, but it also provides the incremental theory intervention in an engaging, colorful, quest-oriented series of four computer sessions. The teacher has the ability to track each students progress throughout the program; thus, a researcher could use this as a tool to determine mindset and perform an incremental theory intervention; then, he or she could track student test data in order to measure the effect of the intervention. Discussion The review of literature supports the notion that a students mindset impacts academic achievement. The major researcher in this field, Carol S. Dweck, has carried out numerous

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studies on the effects of mindset on achievement. She has developed methods of measuring and changing mindsets. In order to place her work in context, the literature review includes studies on middle school students, the achievement gap, and the effects of poverty on learning. The literature demonstrates that poverty negatively impacts student performance and changes the brains of young students. The research also explored the negative effects of racial stereotyping on student mindsets. Dwecks research indicated that changing the students mind set significantly improves academic performance, despite the students SES or previous achievement.

MINDSETS AND BRAINOLOGY Chapter 3 Methods

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Research Design This study employed an approach that was primarily quantitative, yet the study could be classified as mixed-methods. The Brainology (n.d.) software administered a pre- and postsurvey in order to determine each students mindset. The data collected from these surveys were utilized to demonstrate potential changes in mindset and information learned as a result of completing Brainology (n.d.). The software, however, also afforded students the opportunity to keep a personal journal throughout the process, and student comments provided qualitative data to analyze further the impact of the Brainology (n.d.) intervention. The second phase of the study was completely quantitative, as it consisted entirely of comparing Discovery Education Assessment (DEA) predicted levels of achievement with actual achievement on TCAP Math testing. In order to make this comparison, it was necessary to convert DEA raw scores into a percentage score similar to the TCAP quick scores. The proposed study followed a quasi-experimental design. All seventh grade students at a public charter school in Nashville, Tennessee were given access to Brainology (n.d.) and the opportunity to complete the program. All students who took the DEA tests and the TCAP were included in the analysis. All seventh graders did not complete Brainology (n.d.), and the results of students who completed the program were compared with those who did not complete the program. Only students who completed the entire software program were included in the change of mindset analysis. All seventh grade students at the school were included in the portion of the study that compared DEA predicted performance with TCAP actual achievement.

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Before the study began, the school administration decided to group all students into higher-achieving and lower-achieving groups. The high-achievers were given a second math class two days a week, in order to prepare them for the TCAP test. This practice was called double-dosing, and the idea behind this division was that students who were performing on a level of proficiency or near-proficiency would be given additional assistance to boost their performance. Students who were performing at a lower level were placed in a group with students of similar ability, thus assuring that their particular academic needs were met. Although this arrangement was out of this researchers control, the facts were considered in the data analysis. Students who completed the Brainology (n.d.) program and were in the double-dose math group were examined separately from the students who completed the program and were not in the double-dose math group. Sampling and Participants All seventh graders from the same Nashville charter school were invited to participate. The group initially consisted of 63 students, but one student withdrew from the school prior to the end of the study. Of the 62 remaining students, 61 participated in the Free and Reduced Meal program. Twenty-five of the students were male, and thirty-seven were female. There were two Hispanic students, and the balance of the student sample (39) was comprised of AfricanAmerican students. Six students received services for Exceptional Education and, therefore, took the Tennessee Modified Alternative Assessment Standards (TCAP MAAS) test. Variables The pre- and post-assessments in Brainology (n.d.) consist of statements such as, I work hard in school, and I believe that the harder I study in school, the more successful I will be in school, that were to be rated on a six-point Likert scale. These statements were the

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independent variables and the student ratings were the dependent variables. In addition, students were asked to list challenges to their own success in school. The student challenges are qualitative in nature, yet the software grouped them into constructs and created a frequency chart of student challenges. The entire Brainology (n.d.) intervention represents the independent variable. The change in performance from DEA test C to the TCAP test was the dependent variable. In this portion of the study, students were analyzed in four groups: students who showed an initial fixed mindset and did not receive math double-dosing, students who completed Brainology (n.d.) with a growth mindset and did not receive math double-dosing, students who demonstrated a fixed mindset and received math double-dosing, and students who demonstrated a growth mindset and received math double-dosing. Measures Students in Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) took three district-funded, standardized TCAP-predictor tests called Discovery Education Assessments (DEA). The baseline measure of achievement was DEA C, which was given in February, to determine the effects of this researchers intervention. The DEA Math section has a median reliability of 0.82 with a median sample size of 30,390, the test is criterion referenced, and it has content validity. In addition, the test utilizes a vertical scale which incorporates a proprietary growth formula, so that the assessments get harder as the year goes on (DEA, 2010). This eliminates the need to control for maturation and student learning. The TCAP, given in late April, was also a criterion-referenced test, rather than a normreferenced test, which means that students taking TCAP were tested on their performance on a

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given set of state curriculum standards. Students taking the TCAP were not compared to their peers but are only scored on their individual performance (TNDOE, n.d.). Data Collection The Brainology (n.d) intervention took place between Discovery Assessment C and TCAP testing, during regularly scheduled computer lab time. The schools computer lab teacher managed the students participation in Brainology (n.d.). The software covered a variety of topics, including the structure of the brain, the process of learning and remembering, breathing techniques to relieve test anxiety, and applying this knowledge to improve study skills. In addition, the students had the opportunity to reflect on what they learned by utilizing an online journal (Brainology, n.d.). The Brainology (n.d.) questionnaire was also given after the students completed the intervention. The software had an export feature, so that this researcher could examine individual and group responses and results in the form of various spreadsheets and graphs, including Likert scale responses and journal entries. Data Analysis The Brainology (n.d.) questionnaire results were analyzed first in order to determine both the initial student mindsets and whether the intervention affected student mindsets to a statistically significant degree. DEA scores were converted from raw scores to percentages and compared to TCAP percentage scores. Two-variable descriptive statistics were utilized to determine the impact of Brainology (n.d.) on TCAP scores. Student journal responses and challenges to learning were examined pre- and post-intervention in order to determine the effect of Brainology on student self-perceptions. Ethical Behavior All seventh grade students were given an informed consent form to take home, and the

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study was approved by the expedited Lipscomb University Institutional Review Board. The anonymity of students was protected at all times. The Brainology (n.d.) software was purchased from the website www.brainology.us, and the website management staff assisted this researcher by inputting user names and giving each student a password; however, the website staff was given only first names and last initials, in order to protect anonymity. Ethical Considerations Equity in education is the civil rights issue of our generation. Regardless of strides which have been made in many areas of our society, many children, the least of these, suffer the burden of poverty and fail to connect with our education system. Both the black-white and highpoverty-low poverty achievement gaps are evident in elementary school and middle school (USDOE, 2010). For the approximately 27.4% of Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools students who fail to complete high school (MNPS, 2010), the gap grows into a chasm. When students fail in school, they risk failing in life. Dwecks work is the first research this author has read which addresses the self-theories of intelligence and offers a promising, direct interventional strategy for low SES students, an underserved group of young people who deserve the same chance as every other group of American children.

MINDSETS AND BRAINOLOGY Chapter 4 Results A Shift in Mindset

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The Brainology (n.d.) software provides the teacher or researcher with raw data, student journal entries and summary tables. Out of an initial sample of 63 seventh graders, one student left the school in the middle of the study. Thirty-nine students completed all four levels of Brainology (n.d.), and 33 of those students completed both the pre- and post-questionnaires, which consisted of six statements to be rated on a 6-point Likert scale from strongly disagree, or 1, to strongly agree, or 6. The statements, abbreviated in the charts below, were as follows: I work hard to learn new things; I know study techniques that help me learn effectively when I study; If an assignment is hard it means Ill probably learn a lot doing it; I have trouble paying attention in class; I believe that the harder I study in school, the more successful I will be in school; and I believe that I can succeed in school (Brainology (n.d.)).
Pre/Pos S t urvey for All S tudents
5.0 4.5 4.0 3.5 3.0 2.5 2.0 1.5 1.0 0.5 0.0 I work hard I know Hard m eans Trouble The harder I I can study I'll learn paying study, the succeed in techniques attention m ore school successful
P re- Program P ost- Program

4.5 4.0 3.5

4.4 3.4

4.2

4.5 4.6

4.8 4.8

2.9 2.8

In the chart above, a higher score indicates more of a growth mindset, with the exception of Trouble paying attention, which was reverse-coded. The mean mindset score pre-program

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was 3.8, and the median was 3.9. The mean and median post-intervention were 4.2 and 4.3, respectively. Most notably, the greatest increase was in the student response to If an assignment is hard it means Ill probably learn a lot doing it. The score for this statement increased from 3.4 to 4.2, indicating that the average student trended toward a growth mindset post-intervention. In addition, the response to I know study techniques increased from 3.5 to 4.4, indicating that students expressed greater knowledge of how to study. For students who expressed an initial fixed mindset, the results of the pre- and postprogram responses were even more dramatic than the responses for the entire group. Pre/Pos S t urvey for S tudents with Initial F ed Minds ix et
5.0 4.5 4.0 3.5 3.0 2.5 2.0 1.5 1.0 0.5 0.0 I work hard I know Hard m eans Trouble The harder I I can study I'll learn paying study, the succeed in techniques attention m ore school successful 2.3 2.3 2.3 1.5 2.4 2.0
P re- Program P ost- P rogram

4.7 4.3 4.1 3.8

2.0

The mean mindset for this group on the pre-program questionnaire was 2.1, and the median was 3; whereas, post-program, the mean and median were 3.8 and 4, respectively. Students demonstrated the greatest gains in their responses to I work hard to learn new things; I know study techniques; and If an assignment is hard it means Ill probably learn a lot. The information in this chart supports the notion that students with a fixed mindset moved significantly toward a growth mindset through their experience with Brainology (n.d.).

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Student Challenges to Learning During the introduction to the Brainology (n.d.) program, students were asked to select from a list of challenges to success in school; for example, I have trouble concentrating on school work.

#of students indicatingeach challeng e


40 35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0
tro ub le co nc Ig en et tra re If tin all or yn go ge er ns tt vo So hi ch us m ng oo e st wh lw su ha en bje or tI k It ct re ak sa ad ea re or ve te he ry st ar ha Im in rd cl to fo o r m ass fa rb et Id o eh Im on le ind ar t ju n kn in st Id ow m no on yc ta ho 't las ha w go s ve to od en ta stu ke ou I lo de gh n nt se tim ote pa si et nc pe od rs, las o s no ev te er so yt ra hin ss g ign Id on Id m Th en on t Id er ts ha t on e lik ve t sn e kn ag ob sc ow oo ho od dp ol ho yt lac w o he to et lp st o ud m Pe stu e yf rs dy on or or al a do te pr st ob ho lem m ew sg or et k in th e wa y

Ih av e

Thirty-eight students indicated that Some subjects are very hard for me to learn, yet only two stated that they just werent good students. At the outset of Brainology (n.d.), 14 students listed challenges in three or more areas, but after completing the program, only 3 students listed more than three challenges. Brainology (n.d.) affected the students perceptions of school and their ability to be successful in school. Student Journal Responses During the introduction to Brainology (n.d.) and each of the four levels of the program,

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students had access to a journal. Students were encouraged to write down what they learned, whether or not it was helpful, and why it was helpful. All 62 participants made at least one journal entry. Twenty-six of these students commented that the brain can grow or that a person can get smarter. After completing Unit 3, one student said, I learned that the brain grows every time you gain knowledge. Examples of similar journal entries are: When you learn your brain gets stronger; How you can make your brain a lot smarter; How you get smarter when your brain get (sic) exercise like learning; and I learned that my brain gets bigger and smarter as I learn more in school. The prevalence of these statements indicated that many students grasped the core of the growth mindset. Another trend in the student journal entries was study techniques and managing testanxiety. For example, one student wrote, When you are going to take a test you need to count to 10 and say something positive not negative. Another commented, Instead of having so much anxiety you can think positive about the things you need to do. Even if youre nervous you can still think about the good things or what you know about the subject. Yet another student wrote, When youre having a test dont get scared because it will send a message to the brain thinking something is wrong. According to this student, the information helped her because, When I take my TCAP I will say I can pass this . . . and when you take a test do the ones you know first then go back to the ones you dont so you wont run out of time. Most of the journal entries concerning test-taking focused on positive thinking and eliminating negative thoughts so that the brain could function at its best. Many students demonstrated that they had learned specific testtaking and anxiety-reducing techniques. The Effect on Student Achievement The effect on student achievement was mixed and was complicated by the schools

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decision to introduce the double-dose math class intervention. As stated above, higher-achieving students were grouped together and given two additional math classes per week, a practice called double-dosing. These classes were geared specifically toward TCAP review and preparation. The chart below summarizes achievement data for all students in the seventh grade.
Student Increase/Decrease from DEA C to TCAP
35

30

25

20

15

10

ll

ds et

e as re D ec re

as e

ra

as

gy

re as

as

ai no lo

O ve

cr e

re

re

D ec

In c

D ec

in

Br

pl et ed

The two columns on the left represent all students. Overall, 32 students demonstrated an increase over predicted scores and 30 decreased. Of the students who completed Brainology (n.d.), 21 increased and 18 decreased, and the students who ended the program with a growth mindset actually did worse than the group as a whole: Eleven increased and fourteen decreased. The results indicated that Brainology (n.d.) is no magic bullet, and, although the program changed students self-theories of intelligence and affected their journal entries, the impact on achievement was the reverse of what this researcher hypothesized.

C om

G ro

w th

In c

In

as

MINDSETS AND BRAINOLOGY Digging Deeper

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In order to understand more fully the impact of the Brainology (n.d.) intervention, it is necessary to consider different student groupings.
TCAP Double Dose vs. Non-double Dose
25

20

15

10

0 TCAP dd Increase Decrease TCAP ndd Increase Decrease

The school provided one group of students with two extra math classes per week, so-called double-dosing, and this intervention must be considered. The double-dose group included 22 students, or 59%, who increased their scores and 15 students, or 40%, who decreased their scores. The non-double-dose group consisted of 10 students who increased their scores and 15 who decreased their scores from DEA C to TCAP, at a rate of 40% and 60%, respectively. Apparently double-dosing had a significant positive impact on achievement scores, as the practice was designed to do.

MINDSETS AND BRAINOLOGY The combination of Brainology (n.d.) and double-dosing was also examined.

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Students Who Completed Brainology


20 18 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 0

TCAP dd

Increase

Decrease

TCAP ndd

Increase

Decrease

Students who completed Brainology (n.d.) and also experienced double-dose math classes increased their achievement scores at a rate of 18 increases, or 62%, compared to 11 decreases, or 38%. On the other hand, students who completed Brainology (n.d.) but did not receive additional math instruction demonstrated the opposite result, with three students increasing and seven students decreasing their scores, at rates of 30% and 70%, respectively. The combination of the Brainology (n.d.) program and math double-dosing had the greatest positive impact on student achievement from DEA C to TCAP.

MINDSETS AND BRAINOLOGY Achievement results for students who did not complete Brainology (n.d.) are summarized in the following chart.
Students Who Did Not Complete Brainology
9

30

0 TCAP dd Increase Decrease TCAP ndd Increase Decrease

Of the 23 students who did not complete Brainology (n.d.), seven were in the double-dose math classes and sixteen were not. Three students in the double-dose classes increased their score and four decreased; whereas, eight students in the non-double-dose class increased and eight decreased. Results for this group of students were split almost evenly between those who increased and those who decreased their scores.

MINDSETS AND BRAINOLOGY Chapter 5 Discussion and Conclusions Summary of the Study Experiencing and completing the Brainology (n.d.) software program led to a

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statistically significant increase in the mean and median mindset measure of the students. Students who demonstrated an initial fixed mindset with a median score of 3 increased the median mindset score to 4 by the end of the program. Student journal entries supported this change in mindset and also demonstrated that students were learning study techniques. The number of students reporting three or more learning challenges decreased from 14 to 3 upon completion of Brainology (n.d.). In contrast, students who completed Brainology (n.d.) and demonstrated a growth mindset did not fair as well as the overall group when comparing achievement scores. Only 11 students with a growth mindset increased their scores from DEA C to TCAP; whereas, 14 students scores decreased. The greatest growth was demonstrated by the group of students who received double-dose math instruction and completed the Brainology (n.d.) program. Interpretation of Results The Brainology (n.d.) program affected the participating students self-theories of intelligence: only eight students retained a fixed mindset at the end of the program. Students expressed their understanding of the growth mindset in journal entries, and many students also indicated that they had learned study skills. Although the students mindsets, as measured by the pre- and post-questionnaire, did change significantly, the change in itself did not positively affect the achievement of a majority of students.

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The short-term experience of the Brainology (n.d.) was not sufficient to promote significant gains in student achievement; however, students who had the added support of additional, targeted math instruction demonstrated a much higher percentage of increase in achievement from DEA C to TCAP. Thus, the combination of instruction and software intervention was powerful in improving student achievement. Conclusions The Brainology (n.d.) intervention was insufficient to affect achievement scores significantly; however, the software did give students new understandings about how the brain works. These new understandings are not harmful and could help students in the affective domain over the long-term. The changes that were expressed in journals and in survey responses did not, in and of themselves, affect the achievement of a majority of students. Students who completed Brainology (n.d.) and had access to double-dose math instruction showed significant improvement in achievement from DEA C to TCAP. When all of the students who completed Brainology (n.d.) were considered, 54% increased their scores, as compared to 62% of the students in the double-dose group who also completed Brainology (n.d.). Students who did not complete Brainology (n.d.) showed no significant difference, whether they were in the double-dose classes or not; therefore, the combination of Brainology (n.d.) and the double-dose of math was a powerful intervention. Brainology (n.d.) should not be used in isolation; rather, it should be employed in conjunction with the curriculum so that students have an opportunity to apply their growth mindsets. Students in the double-dose math classes were told that they were high achievers. Perhaps this knowledge and the growth mindset worked together to spur these students to increased scores on high-stakes tests.

MINDSETS AND BRAINOLOGY Links to Literature Review

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In order to mitigate the effects of poverty on students brains, Jensen suggests that schools create an enrichment mindset that encourages creativity and strong emotional ties (Jensen, 2009). Student journal responses to the Brainology (n.d.) software levels demonstrated that the students learned new material about how their brains work. The students were encouraged to talk to someone about what they learned, an act that would foster social bonding. The software covered material ranging from how the brain physically looks to developing ones intelligence to avoiding test-anxiety. Not only would this information foster a growth mindset, but it would also contribute to the enrichment mindset which Jensen described. Dweck (2000) found that 60% of incremental theorists would choose a challenging task, as opposed to 20% of entity theorists. This result was consistent over cultures and multiple iterations of the study. The seventh graders in this researchers study demonstrated a change in mindset which may result in a greater willingness to accept challenges in the future. The students who were challenged by taking additional math classes rose to that challenge and demonstrated a higher percentage of increase in test scores. Recommendations for Practice Brainology (n.d.) taught the participants how the brain works, and the software fostered a growth mindset. In practice, teachers should educate themselves about types of mindsets and the impact of a students mindset on learning and achievement. The Brainology (n.d.) website, www.brainology.us, has a multitude of resources for parents, teachers, and students in order to foster a school-wide growth mindset. The Mindset Works Toolkit (n.d.) includes activities for students and professional development for teachers.

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The students who benefitted the most from Brainology (n.d.) had additional instruction, and those students were told that they were high-achievers. In order to reap the greatest achievement gains from Brainology (n.d.), teachers need to tell students that they can achieve at the highest level, and teachers must believe that. Students must be convinced that their brains can get stronger with effort, just as athletes get better with practice. Teachers must exhibit high expectations and offer students challenging activities in order to activate the growth mindset. In other words, a growth mindset is useless without challenging educational experiences. Action Plan This researcher had hoped that a simple software intervention would be adequate to affect achievement gains, but the data do not support that notion. In order for Brainology (n.d.) to have the greatest possible impact, the entire school must adopt a growth mindset and participate in the Mindset Works (n.d.) programs. Mindset Works (n.d.) is a comprehensive program that involves professional development as well as the Brainology (n.d.) program. The cost of the software itself is $20 per student, an amount that would be cost prohibitive for many schools. If the entire program could not be implemented, then this researcher would recommend that colleagues read the material available on the website. Whenever possible, teachers could seek to participate in research opportunities. There are small ways to affect student mindsets like using growth mindset language in the classroom. This researcher plans to share the results of this study with colleagues and form a group to study methods of promoting growth mindsets and integrating the notion of a growth mindset into the existing curriculum. Implications for Further Research One approach to further research would be to follow this group of students through the end of 8th grade. Perhaps the effects of Brainology (n.d.) would be more readily apparent as

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time went on. The achievement scores of this schools 7th graders could be compared to the scores of another schools 7th graders, thus introducing a true control group into the study. This researcher could also investigate and implement the recommendations of the Mindset Works (n.d.) program, as well as foster the integration of the Brainology (n.d.) curriculum into the classroom. Given Dwecks success with her 2007 intervention and the partial success of this study, further research into the subject would certainly be warranted.

MINDSETS AND BRAINOLOGY References Armstrong, T. (2006). Best schools: How human development research should inform educational practice. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?

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id=bmsbReA56NIC&printsec=frontcover&dq=armstrong+best+schools&source=bl&ots =KQhOHdEpuW&sig=cMfHjAIN48yBtNitKPyDjc5twUc&hl=en&ei=u2_ATIPNE4Wcl gff4Y2QCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CCAQ6AEwAg#v=on epage&q&f=false Aronson, J., Cohen, G., McColskey, W., Montrosse, B., Lewis, K., & Mooney, K. (2009). Reducing stereotype threat in classrooms: A review of social-psychological intervention studies on improving the achievement of black students (Issues & Answers Report, REL 2009No. 076). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast. Retrieved from http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs Atwood, J. R. (2010, April-May). Mindset, motivation and metaphor in school and sport: Bifurcated beliefs and behavior in two different achievement domains. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Denver, CO. Blackwell, L. S., Trzesniewski, K. H., & Dweck, C. S. (2007). Implicit theories of intelligence predict achievement across an adolescent transition: A longitudinal study and an intervention. Child Development, 78(1), 246-263. Brainology . (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.brainology.us/login/needLogin.aspx Discovery Education Assessment. (2010). Discovery Education Assessment Research. Retrieved from static.discoveryeducation.com/de/docs/assessment/14111_Tennessee Research.pdf

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Dweck, C. S. (2000). Self-theories: Their role in motivation, personality, and development. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis Group. Dweck, C. S. (2006). Is math a gift? Beliefs that put females at risk. In Ceci, S.J. & Williams, W. (Eds.) Why arent more women in science? Top researchers debate the evidence. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Dweck, C.S. (2009). Can we make our students smarter? Education Canada, 49(4), 56-57, 5961. Jensen, Eric. (2009). Teaching with poverty in mind: What being poor does to kids brains and what schools can do about it. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. (2010). Graduation rate: MNPS way ahead of the curve for graduation rates. Retrieved from http://www.mnps.org/Page58227.aspx Mindset Works Toolkit. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.mindsetworks.com/mindset-school/ Thompson, T. D., & Preston, R. V. (2004). Measurement in the middle grades: Insights from NAEP and TIMSS, Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School, 9(9), 514-519. U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics (2009). Mathematics Achievement Gaps. The condition of education 20002010. (NCES Report No. 2009-081). Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/2010/section2/indicator12.asp Tennessee Department of Education. (n.d.) Frequently asked questions about the achievement test. What are criterion-referenced tests (CRT)? Retrieved from http://www.state.tn.us/education/assessment/ach_faq.shtml Vanderbilt University. (n.d). Tamra Stambaugh. Retrieved from http://pty.vanderbilt.edu/about/pty-staff/tamra-stambaugh/