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ERC Proof of Concept Grant for Nienke van Atteveldt and Tieme Janssen

18 January 2024
Awarded research project using technology to create a stronger growth mindset in students.

Nienke van Atteveldt, professor of neuroscience & society at VU Amsterdam, and Tieme Janssen, Assistant professor, have been awarded a Proof of Concept (PoC) grant of 150,000 euro by the European Research Council (ERC) for the project Explore Your Brain 2.0: a maximally effective, usable and scalable growth mindset intervention to break through adolescents’ declining rates of motivation and school achievements. This PoC grant is based on the ERC Starting Grant “BRAINBELIEFS”, in which the research team found that showing students the influence they have over their brains can stimulate a growth mindset.

“Adolescence is a period of sharp declines in school motivation and achievement, with negative consequences not only for the academic success and mental wellbeing of youth, but also for teachers and parents”, say Van Atteveldt.

Implicit belief of growth mindset
An interesting target for intervention is the implicit belief of adolescents that their abilities are malleable (growth mindset), which has been shown to protect against declines in motivation and achievement, and to boost resilience in school and beyond. “This PoC grant research proposal builds on the innovative growth mindset intervention Explore Your Brain, developed in my previous research. This intervention uniquely combines theoretical information about brain plasticity with an experience of influence over one’s own brain, generated using neurofeedback. The results were very promising, but the technology is still in applied research status and not yet easily usable by teachers in the classroom”, explains Van Atteveldt.

Practical tool of growth mindset intervention
“The main goal of this PoC is to drastically increase the impact that can be achieved on academic motivation, achievement and resilience of high school students by improving our prototype growth mindset intervention”, explains Janssen. The breakthrough of the innovation depends on increasing usability and scalability, to maximize the number of adolescents who can profit from the innovation. A Research & Development team including game designers and education specialists will iteratively develop and test Explore Your Brain 2.0 adopting a user-designer approach and a Business Development team will develop a business plan for financially and logistically feasible large-scale implementation of the intervention.

“After completing this project, we can implement the intervention nationally as well as internationally at a large scale, thereby protecting a maximum number of adolescents against declines in school motivation and achievements. This benefits society at large because of higher educational attainment and mental wellbeing of the next generation”, says Janssen.