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Growth Mindset/PERTS

Presented by Craig Johnson, Director of Orientation Programs for Student Success – January 23, 2020

Growth Mindset is the idea that we can grow our brain’s capacity to learn and to solve problems.
—Dr. Carol Dweck, Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology, Stanford University


Insights on Growth Mindset:

  • Educating students about growth mindset and how they can improve their learning experience is a step toward increased intrinsic motivation in our society. A lofty goal, but not unreasonable.
    Fixed mindset versus a growth mindset: In a growth mindset, you are embracing challenges. You are ready to tackle the day—Carpe diem! In the fixed mindset you are trying to avoid challenges at all costs.

  • In the growth mindset, you persist in the face of setbacks. You confront an issue head-on, pick yourself up and keep going. In the fixed mindset, you internalize the experience, perhaps saying to yourself, “I'm a failure. This is really hard on me. It's going to be really difficult to overcome this.”

  • The concept of growth mindset is not just applicable to students. All people can reflect on their own growth mindset to see where habits form and where one falls on the spectrum.

  • Growth mindset exhibits a positive relationship with achievement across all of the socioeconomic strata.

  • Studies showed that students from lower-income families were less likely to hold a growth mindset than their wealthier peers.

  • Students in the lowest 10th percentile of family income who exhibited a growth mindset showed academic performance as high as that of fixed mindset students from the 80th income percentile in a study conducted on Chilean high school students.

Insights on PERTS: 

PERTS (Project for Education Research that Scales) is an applied research center at Stanford University. PERTS helps educators apply evidence-based strategies in order to advance educational excellence and equity on a large scale. Properly scaling educational research can empower schools to reduce inequality and create better experiences for students and teachers. 

  • PERTS offers several different complimentary online modules for use by K-12 schools and universities.

  • Purdue utilized the PERTS Growth Mindset for College program in 2019 in Pre-Arrival Homework, which is an online module for all students prior to their arrival on campus.

  • Growth Mindset for College Students is a 30-minute, evidence-based module designed to increase college students' academic motivation, resilience, and achievement. It offers information about the brain and how it continues to grow. The module is interlaced with stories and quotes from other students and contains a collection of open responses, questions about self, and prompts for offering advice.

The Growth Mindset for College Students module teaches:

  1. The brain is like a muscle, it becomes stronger and smarter when you exercise it.
  2. College is a perfect time to grow your brain. Science shows that the cells in the brain are ready to grow stronger at any age—including the teenage years and well into adulthood. Challenging college coursework provides just the right exercise to help brain cells grow.
  3. Building a stronger brain in college can help you become the person you want to be. It can help you make a difference for your family, community or the world around you. 

Impact of PERTS – Growth Mindset for College Students Implemented in 2019 BGR

  • 43,128 participants total for this PERTS module in fall 2019 
  • 7,028 incoming Purdue students participated in this module
  • Purdue student responses to growth mindset questions
    • 48% thinking with growth mindset pre-intervention
    • 63% thinking with growth mindset post-intervention

Growth Mindset Misunderstanding

There are some misunderstandings around the topic of growth mindset. Some people equate supporting a growth mindset with praise. Yet, praise is tricky and often a one-sided approach. If you are only focusing on praise, it can actually do more harm than good. When teachers only praise effort, it is not effective. Praising effort is often an attempt to try to make kids feel good when they are not achieving. Students know that if they did not make progress and they receive praise, it’s a consolation prize.

Supporting Steps to Leaps through Growth Mindset and Beyond

  1. Identify programs you already do that align with a Steps to Leaps pillar.
  2. Submit those programs at
  3. Begin to use the steps to leaps language, definitions, and branding.
  4. Invite a Steps to leaps representative to your staff meeting or student meeting by emailing
  5. Attend Steps to Leaps events, including additional lunch and learns!


To join the conversation and learn more,
use the hashtag #PurdueStepstoLeaps on social channels:

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