Unstucky

How might we have kids do, think, and reflect on what it looks like to internalize a growth mindset? Unstucky creates scalable interventions that teachers can apply in the classroom to improve student learning.


  • Roles: Design Strategist, Design Researcher, Prototyping Contributor.
  • Methods: Design-led Research, Human-centered Design, Embodiment as an Expanded Method of Design, Storytelling, Prototyping.
  • Team: Winnie Chang, Mashal Khan, Mei Ling Lu.
  • Partners: Riverdale Country School.

The proposal: Growth mindset interventions often have short-term gains but no long term results. So in approaching the project from the needs of the students and teachers, it changed our understanding of the role our intervention would play. Rather than being a quick intervention whose success would be assessed through standardized methods, we saw it as an embedded part of the classroom routine that could lead to internalized knowing.

Our participants experiencing our embodiment activity.

Our participants experiencing our embodiment activity.

Catalyzing through design: Our proposed intervention aims to reinforce growth mindset and the application of effective effort through 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 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 the metrics introduced by researchers. The game playfully surfaces students' comprehension of growth mindset by differentiating between fixed and growth mindset tactical responses. Both are presented thought characters, role models and influential figures determined from the results of student surveys. 


The Theory of Change

For this project, we focus 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 us determining our focus on the pre-contemplation and contemplation stages with children age 9–10 years old (fourth to fifth grade).

As a starting point, we conducted secondary research and conversed with Dr. Joshua Aronson, Associate Professor of Applied Psychology at NYU, whose recent work focuses on creating scalable interventions that teachers can apply inthe classroom to imporve student learning. Joshua's theory of change worked with 1) giving kids the science behind how their brains can change, 2) get kids to own times they have got better at something, 3) give strategies for making the brain change, and 4) have kids testify to others how they can can change. In contrast, we worked on developing a growth mindset intervention at the classroom level that centered on how to actively engage with kids in this process in order to make this concept stick. We also spoke with Kevin Mattingily, professor at Columbia University Teacher's college and Directo of Co-curricular at Riverdale Country school, about the importance of reflection and applying effort effectively when teaching students about growth mindset.