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22st Annual OLC International Conference
November 16-18, 2016 | Orlando, Florida | Walt Disney World Swan/Dolphin Resort

OLC Innovate 2016 - Innovations in Blended and Online Learning
April 20-22, 2016 | New Orleans, LA | Sheraton New Orleans Hotel

Using Dweck's Growth Mindset to Promote Academic Success in an Online Introduction to Cultural Anthropology Course

Bethany Heywood (Ashford University, USA)
Emma Bate (Ashford University, USA)
Session Information
October 14, 2015 - 3:45pm
Learning Effectiveness
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Practical Application
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Research Study
Institutional Level: 
Universities and Four Year Institutions
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Northern Hemisphere A3
Session Duration: 
45 Minutes
Concurrent Session 4

Students in ANT101 reviewed research on Dweck's growth mindset and discussed it to help them improve their resilience in the face of academic setbacks.

Extended Abstract

Online education attracts nontraditional, adult learners, who may be at greater risk of discontinuing their education, especially if they encounter setbacks in their first few courses. Research by Dweck and others indicates that students who have a growth mindset are more resilient in the face of these early setbacks, but most studies have been done in traditional learning environments. We applied a growth mindset intervention in ANT101: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology to ascertain whether such an intervention could improve online student success.

ANT101 is an introductory, general education course that most students take to satisfy Ashford University's diversity requirement. Internal dashboard data show that ANT101 has a relatively high non-completion rate. ANT101 occurs relatively early in the course sequence, and it is one of the first courses in which students must complete a formal research paper. Students often express frustration with their grades and the challenging nature of the course.

The growth mindset encourages students to see struggles and setbacks in a more positive light, rather than as a sign that they are not smart enough to succeed. We aimed to promote greater academic success among high-risk students by teaching them to understand their own learning process in terms of steady growth rather than instant success. Research shows that small, targeted interventions to teach students about the growth mindset can have long lasting effects on students, improving both retention and GPA for years afterward.

We implemented a growth mindset discussion prompt to educate students about the benefits of the growth mindset, and we compared the grades, failure rate, and drop rate after this new prompt was implemented with the previous discussion prompt, which did not teach students about the growth mindset. We found that teaching students about the growth mindset helped them to adjust to academic challenges and motivated them to continue their academic journey.