Cause and Effect for Growth Mindset in Urban Schools

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Updated: Mar 14, 2023
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Urban schools house crowded classrooms, economically disadvantaged students, limited resources and a plethora of challenges that could significantly impact the graduation rates for high school students (Brougham & Kashubeck-West, 2017). To improve graduation rates, authors Brougham and Kashubeck-West (2017) unravel through experience and literature review the underlying link that growth mindset intervention rather than academic intervention has on attendance and grade point average which are contributing factors in graduation rates.


Mindset growth is an important but less popular topic for implementation in schools.

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This article focuses on the proposed effects of improving mindset growth in urban schools through the delivery of ASCA based interventions presented in a group setting over three group sessions by a school counselor (Brougham & Kashubeck-West, 2017). The approach to the growth mindset is rooted in numerous behavior standards set for in the American School Counseling Association National Model (Brougham & Kashubeck-West, 2017).

Environmental circumstances that students who attend urban schools face, “such as low socioeconomic status (SES), low parent education levels, and being from a traditional educational minority, plus the difficult ninth grade transition experienced by most students,” cannot be changed by school counselors, however interventions can be introduced to motivate students and develop more positive mindset increasing the likelihood of academic success (Brougham & Kashubeck-West, 2017, pg. 2). The research study proposes three hypotheses related to introducing and implementing growth mindset interventions with a positive correlation of students’ attendance and grades which would also improve graduation rates (Brougham & Kashubeck-West, 2017). Methodology “The design of this experimental study replicated previous studies in which students read about how the brain grows, learned how a struggling student employed growth mindset beliefs and with effort improved her academic standing, and wrote letters based on what they had learned to encourage future students” (Brougham & Kashubeck-West, 2017, p. 4). The independent variable was the group of students receiving the intervention utilizing growth mindset, and the dependent variables were the “academic performance, Mindset Scale score, and attendance” (Brougham & Kashubeck-West, 2017, p. 5).

A total of 89 participating freshmen were recruited, 48 from one school and 41 from the other, with parental permission and student assent and 69 students participants remaining for the duration and outcome of the research (Brougham & Kashubeck-West, 2017). Contributing factors to the decline in student participation include “transferring out of state, withdrawing to a juvenile facility, suspension, an deciding that they were no longer interested in participating in a study” while other students were deselected based on absenteeism for the day the study began (Brougham & Kashubeck-West, 2017, p. 5). Data collection included an average GPA from each school group, attendance for each group, and a self-assessed Mindset Scale (Brougham & Kashubeck-West, 2017). Random assignment to the intervention group or control group was performed using a random number generator (Brougham & Kashubeck-West, 2017).

The treatment group received a specific set of interventions during three group sessions where the school counselor presented psychoeducation related to how the brain learns followed by activities while the control group received an identical format in presentation but different material provided (Brougham & Kashubeck-West, 2017). The control group received information regarding brain anatomy and physiology (Brougham & Kashubeck-West, 2017). The Mindset Scale was read aloud to each group and administered on paper with three questions utilizing a “6-point response scale ranging from 1 (strongly agree) to 6 (strongly disagree)” (Brougham & Kashubeck-West, 2017, p. 5). As previously mentioned all data including the Mindset Scale, GPA, and attendance were gathered prior to intervention and post-intervention and collected into an Excel Spreadsheet along with demographics regarding gender, race, and special education status for further analyzing (Brougham & Kashubeck-West, 2017).


Hypothesis one predicted a positive correlation between providing GMI and improved GPA (Brougham & Kashubeck-West, 2017). Results of this study did not support this hypothesis; the GPA of the treatment group declined while the GPA of the control group improved (Brougham & Kashubeck-West, 2017). Hypothesis two predicted that students who received GMI would improve growth mindset through self-assessment (Brougham & Kashubeck-West, 2017). Findings validated the hypothesis; students who participated in GMI reported improvement in growth mindset while students in the control drop reported a decline (Brougham & Kashubeck-West, 2017).

The third hypothesis predicted an improvement in attendance for those students in the treatment group receiving GMI (Brougham & Kashubeck-West, 2017). While the findings indicated that hypothesis 3 was not supported, results demonstrated that the decline in attendance was numerically less for the students in the treatment group than the control group (Brougham & Kashubeck-West, 2017). However, it is noted that the data does not reflect as statistically significant. Authors deemed the study a success with a confirmed hypothesis that “the intervention was successful with respect to positively affecting mindset beliefs, as students scored higher on the posttest mindset measure compared to the pretest” (Brougham & Kashubeck-West, 2017 p. 6).

Recommendations by the authors included further studies with respect to GMI’s effects on academic achievement and attendance but utilizing longer timeframes for which measuring data, conducting the study among elementary and secondary education students, private and public schools, and incorporating growth mindset language within the classroom setting as implemented by the teachers to reinforce the intervention (Brougham & Kashubeck-West, 2017). Interesting factors to consider in the research study are the differences in school economically as it relates to poverty among students, race differences in the two participating schools, as well as the proposition of placebo effect on the control group with respect to the therapeutic relationship itself (Brougham & Kashubeck-West, 2017).


Because of my current course load and the heavy laden research emphasis, I was more focused on the research method, design, and presentation of the study. I found myself having to re-read much of the material that detailed the contributing factors to the research or specific information related to the interventions. Upon reflection, while appropriate for a professional journal and research paper, the language was difficult to understand at times despite my recent education in the lingo commonly used. I was especially interested in this article predominantly because of its presentation of unsupported hypotheses. Most often (but arguable due to my recent insight in research), journal articles present research studies with supported findings validating the proposed hypothesis, so I became curious about the method in which the hypotheses were not supported and the way the authors would present the findings. Ultimately, I found the article very informative on that platform. Aside from the education that I gained about the research process, I did take away an important aspect that I could incorporate into my professional school counseling practice.

School counselors can advocate and provide professional development to educate teachers and staff to utilize the growth mindset language of focusing on efforts towards academics rather than the outcome to gauge intelligence with a goal of improving the atmosphere of the classroom and climate of the school (Brougham & Kashubeck-West, 2017). I had not previously considered a growth mindset intervention as a tool or resource in the education setting in the frame in which it is presented in this article. However, I do see the results of having a climate that is more focused on a student’s efforts rather than an outcome. Because I often work with students from a lower socioeconomic status, often their efforts are overlooked because the grades do not reflect that of more “intelligent” students. I wonder what impact that would have on low performing students if they were praised if all students were praised from the standpoint of a growth mindset. The article definitely has me considering this as a definite intervention tool to incorporate in professional development.   

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Cause and Effect for Growth Mindset in Urban Schools. (2021, Aug 06). Retrieved from