Growth mindset: U.S. students rank in top 10

Students who reported having a growth mindset scored higher on international PISA test
By: | April 8, 2021
Students with a growth mindset value school more, set more ambitious learning goals, report higher levels of self-efficacy, and are more motivated and less afraid of failure.  Students with a growth mindset value school more, set more ambitious learning goals, report higher levels of self-efficacy, and are more motivated and less afraid of failure.  

International test scores sometimes cause hand-wringing among pundits and politicians when the results show U.S. students lagging behind global peers in math and science.

In 2018, the headline-grabbing PISA test added a wrinkle: 600,000 15-year-olds from 78 countries were asked if they had a “growth mindset.” Did they, in other words, believe that talent and intelligence can be developed over time.

The U.S. fared well, finishing in the top 10 for the percentage of students who believe that academic ability is not set in stone, according to a new report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which administers PISA.

Girls in the U.S. showed higher rates of growth mindset than did boys. More affluent students also expressed a greater belief in the potential to expand intelligence than did less affluent students, the report found.


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Analysis of PISA results also found the students who reported having a growth mindset scored higher on the test.

Students who disagreed with the statement “Your intelligence is something about you that you can’t change very much” scored 31.5 points higher in reading, 27 points higher in science, and 23 points higher in math.

Students with a growth mindset also valued school more, set more ambitious learning goals, reported higher levels of self-efficacy, and were more motivated and less afraid of failure.

To measure growth mindset, the PISA asked 15-year-olds how much they agreed or disagreed with the following statements:

  • No matter who you are, you can change your intelligence a lot.
  • You can always change greatly your level of intelligence.
  • No matter how much intelligence you have, you can always change your intelligence quite a bit.

Here at the top 10 growth mindset countries:

  1. Estonia
  2. Denmark
  3. Germany
  4. Ireland
  5. Iceland
  6. Latvia
  7. Lithuania
  8. Austria
  9. United Kingdom
  10. United States