Identifying supportive student factors for mindset interventions: A two-model machine learning approach

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Growth mindset interventions foster students’ beliefs that their abilities can grow through effort and appropriate strategies. However, not every student benefits from such interventions – yet research identifying which student factors support growth mindset interventions is sparse. In this study, we utilized machine learning methods to predict growth mindset effectiveness in a nationwide experiment in the U.S. with over 10,000 students. These methods enable analysis of arbitrarily-complex interactions between combinations of student-level predictor variables and intervention outcome, defined as the improvement in grade point average (GPA) during the transition to high school. We utilized two separate machine learning models: one to control for complex relationships between 51 student-level predictors and GPA, and one to predict the change in GPA due to the intervention. We analyzed the trained models to discover which features influenced model predictions most, finding that prior academic achievement, blocked navigations (attempting to navigate through the intervention software too quickly), self-reported reasons for learning, and race/ethnicity were the most important predictors in the model for predicting intervention effectiveness. As in previous research, we found that the intervention was most effective for students with prior low academic achievement. Unique to this study, we found that blocked navigations predicted an intervention effect as low as 0.185 GPA points (on a 0–4 scale) less than the mean. This was a notable negative prediction given that the mean intervention effect in our sample was just 0.026 GPA points, though few students (4.4%) experienced a substantial number of blocked navigation events. We also found that some minoritized students were predicted to benefit less (or even not at all) from the intervention. Our findings have implications for the design of computer-administered growth mindset interventions, especially in relation to students who experience procedural difficulties completing the intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104190
JournalComputers and Education
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • 21st century abilities
  • Data science applications in education
  • Secondary education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Computer Science


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