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Reading stories of struggle improves the growth mindset of young adults-to-be
By Elaine Lau, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
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, to be more persistent in the face of setbacks, and to lead them to higher achievement in academic learning.
Du and colleagues examined whether asking students to read stories of role models would be effective in enhancing the growth mindset of young adults-to-be. In Du et al.’s study, high school, undergraduate and postgraduate students read stories of scientist role models and the course of their achievements. Students’ mindsets were measured before and after reading the stories.
The study used two types of stories: stories of struggle and stories of achievement. Stories of struggle highlighted the setbacks a 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 mindset 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.
This study demonstrates that story-based mindset interventions can be useful in strengthening the growth mindset of young adults at the post-secondary level by exposing them to successful role models who also faced struggles, like themselves, before becoming successful. Further work is needed to explore how these mindsets can be altered in high school students.