Our theory of change focuses on the early stages in the transtheoretical model of behavior change. Before new behavior takes hold we need to listen to and address the mindset that drives behavior. This led to us determining our focus on the pre-contemplation and contemplation stages with children ages 9–10 years old (fourth to fifth grade).
We conducted secondary research and conversed with Dr. Joshua Aronson, Associate Professor of Applied Psychology at NYU, whose research focuses on creating scalable interventions that teachers can apply in the classroom to improve student learning. Joshua’s theory of change for growth mindset interventions had been along the lines of 1) giving kids the science behind how their brains can change, 2) getting kids to own times they have got better at something, 3) giving strategies for making the brain change, and 4) having kids testify to others how they can change. In contrast, we worked on developing a mindset intervention at the classroom level that centered on how to actively engage with kids—our hunch being that a more embodied experience of the process might make for a stickier intervention.
Having experienced these theories of change first-hand, our proposed intervention aims to reinforce growth mindset and the application of effective effort through an engaging, play-based micro-curriculum. This curriculum consists of four main components: Embodiment, Visual Narrative, Game Play and Reflection. After many iterations and pilots with middle-school kids we designed two versions of our game, “Unstucky.” Different contexts require revised game play components. The first aimed at the children reinforces the application of different strategies or “key tricks” effectively to characters that are “stuck.” The second addresses a need for diagnostic tools that do not rate students by metrics originally conceived for research not the classroom. The game playfully surfaces students’ comprehension of growth mindset by differentiating between fixed and growth mindset tactical responses. Both are presented through characters, role models and influential figures determined from the results of student surveys.
This project was developed within the Transforming Mindsets studio, a part of the MFA Transdisciplinary Design program at Parsons School of Design. It was conceptualized by students Andrea Burgueño Castro, Mashal Khan, Mei-Ling Lu, and Winnie Chang along with instructors Lisa Grocott and Roger Miletic in New York City, Fall 2015.
We would like to give special thanks to Kevin Mattingly, Director of Co-Curriculum at Riverdale Country School, along with Karen Fierst, Lower School Assistant Head for Curriculum and Academic Programs, and the insightful students who helped pilot our micro-curriculum.