Our Approach

What are mindsets, skills, and habits?

They are a set of intrapersonal and interpersonal skills that focus on how to manage oneself and interact with others. Together with important academic competencies schools focus on, these skills help prepare students for college, career, and life. Examples of mindsets, skills, and habits include growth mindset, self-regulation/self-management, social awareness, emotional intelligence, collaborative problem solving, and others. We often use the term MESH as a short-hand for these “mindsets, and essential skills and habits.”

Despite compelling research and broad support from educators, these mindsets, skills, and habits have not yet been integrated into the formal structures that undergird our education systems. To that end, Transforming Education (TransformEd) is focused on identifying scalable, sustainable ways for these skills to take root throughout K-12 education.

How do they relate to social-emotional learning?

There are many different names used to refer to the set of skills that we know matter for student success. Some organizations and individuals use the term social-emotional learning, others say non-cognitive skills, and still others prefer the term character strengths. Even individual skills are often referred to by different names. For example, some people call the ability to manage your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in different situations “self-regulation,” while others prefer “self-control” or “self-management.”

No matter what we call these skills, the key is understanding how they help students succeed in school, college, career, and life.

Which of these skills are most important?

Given that there are so many names and concepts floating around, it’s difficult to know where educators and researchers should concentrate their efforts. We think the jury is still out on which skills matter the most, but that shouldn’t prevent us from moving ahead to help students. The framework we use to decide whether to focus our efforts on a particular skill involves three criteria: a skill has to be meaningful, measureable, and malleable to be useful to schools.

  • Meaningful: It predicts immediate and long-term academic and life outcomes
  • Measureable: It can be assessed by schools in ways that are reliable and repeatable
  • Malleable (or teachable): It can be improved by specific school practices

We focus on the skills that meet these three M’s because they have the potential to impact student outcomes.

Promising Evidence

Rigorous longitudinal research has demonstrated that mindsets, skills, and habits have a significant impact on students’ academic performance and persistence in school, as well as their broader life success, as measured by a variety of health, wealth, and well-being indicators in adulthood.

Mindsets, Skills, and Habits

A student’s mindsets, skills, and habits are equally or more important than IQ in determining the highest level of education a student will reach (high school, college, graduate school, etc.)

Mindsets, skills, and habits predict how well employees will be evaluated by their superiors far better than IQ does.


Self-control in children as young as age 5 can predict important life outcomes such as high school completion, physical health, income, single parenthood, substance dependence, and criminal involvement.

Growth Mindset

When a group of struggling 7th grade students in New York City learned to 1) think of their brains as muscles that grow with exercise and 2) visualize new connections developing within their brains, their motivation and math scores improved during a time when math achievement typically declines.