EEF publishes new evaluation reports, including findings from ‘growth mindsets’ approach

The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has published the independent evaluation reports of five EEF-funded projects, including the findings from a large trial of an approach to ‘growth mindsets’ which aimed to encourage in pupils the belief that intelligence can be developed through effort and dedication.

5,018 pupils in 101 schools took part in the trial of Changing Mindsets, a programme designed to improve maths and literacy grades by teaching Year 6 pupils that their brain potential is not a fixed entity but can grow and change through effort exerted. 

Teachers received professional development training on approaches to developing a growth mindset, together with lesson plans, interactive resources, and practical classroom tips, before then delivering sessions to pupils over eight weeks. Teachers were encouraged to embed aspects of the ‘growth mindsets’ approach throughout their teaching – for example, when giving feedback outside of the sessions.

The independent evaluation, by a team from the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR), found no evidence that the Year 6 pupils who took part in the programme made any additional progress in literacy or numeracy as measured by national Key Stage 2 tests. However, the evaluation also found that many of the teachers in the control group of schools which did not take part in the programme were also aware of ‘growth mindsets’ theory, as the practice is so widespread.  

The EEF commentary advises that the lack of a positive impact in this trial, together with the limited number of evaluations of ‘growth mindsets’ programmes in English classrooms, means teachers should be cautious about using the approach as a standalone method of improving pupil attainment.

The EEF has published four other independent evaluations of programmes to improve teaching and learning today:

  • EasyPeasy, an app for parents of pre-school aged children which sends regular game ideas to parents that they can play with their children, combined with information on child development. On a composite language scale of three different measures, the independent evaluators from Durham University found no evidence that young children whose parents took part made any more progress in language than those that did not. The evaluators found small increases on two areas of language development - ‘Word structure’ and ‘Concepts and following directions’, equivalent to +1 month’s additional progress - but no increase on two others, ‘Sentence structure’ or ‘Expressive vocabulary’.
  • Engage in Education, which provides small-group and one-to-one support for pupils in Years 9 and 10 who are at high risk of exclusion. Identified pupils received sessions in areas such as communication skills and anger management, and support from a keyworker over 12 weeks. The evaluators from the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology found no evidence that the programme reduced exclusions. They found that it was also difficult to implement and relatively high-cost to run.
  • Onebillion, app-based maths learning for pupils in Year 1. In this trial, pupils who received onebillion made an additional +3 months’ progress, on average, compared to the control group of pupils who did not. This promising result has very high security. However, disadvantaged pupils in this trial made less progress, though the sample size for these pupils was too small for the evaluation to be able to generalise about this finding – for now, the EEF advises schools to consider the impact on disadvantaged pupils if implementing onebillion.
  • Embedding Contextualisation, which aimed to improve results for post-16 students re-sitting their GCSE English and/or maths exams by by training their teachers to use real-life and vocational contexts and examples to emphasise the relevance of these subjects to their future careers. This pilot found the programme helped to raise the profile of contextualisation and teaching. However teachers reported concerns about the challenge of applying contextualised knowledge to a non-contextualised GCSE exam.