Growth Mindset In Physics: Students’ Beliefs About Learning Physics in Middle School And How To Foster A Subject Specific Growth Mindset


  • Laura Goldhorn Department of Physics Education, Goethe-University, Frankfurt 60438, Germany
  • Thomas Wilhelm Department of Physics Education, Goethe-University, Frankfurt 60438, Germany
  • Verena Spatz Department of Physics Education, Technical University of Darmstadt, Darmstadt 64289, Germany



Students hold different beliefs about the nature of intelligence. While some believe in intelligence as a fixed trait (fixed mindset), others believe in a more malleable nature of intelligence that can be actively developed (growth mindset). These often unconsciously held beliefs can influence students’ engagement in learning and (therefore) their academic performance. Especially when facing difficulties and/or overcoming setbacks, a growth mindset is more supportive for students’ engagement. Students with a growth mindset focus on the learning process, while students holding fixed beliefs feel like they won’t ever be able to master the difficult tasks and tend to give up more often. While most of the mindset research targets students’ general academic mindset, we focus on their physics specific beliefs. Physics is described as ‘challenging’ and ‘difficult’ and in Germany, most students choose to drop physics as soon as possible. We designed and evaluated a physics specific mindset questionnaire, asking students not only about their beliefs about intelligence, but also about their beliefs about learning physics and a (potential) giftedness in physics. The results of this survey show: students’ physics specific mindsets change over time, without targeted interventions. While in the beginning of physics classes in middle school a majority of students hold a growth mindset in physics, this percentage decreases drastically during the years of learning physics. Aiming to support a growth mindset in physics, we designed a subject-specific intervention based on the domain-general growth mindset interventions, that we tested in a pilot study with 26 students.






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