Mindset and Grit for Academic Success

Post by Rebecca Lee

You can do it

Have you ever heard students in your course complain about tough or unfair marking? Do you notice that these same students also complain about the course delivery, or the teaching methods, or lack of clarity of assessment tasks, or the lack of time that they have available to complete said tasks? I think this is often (but not always!) evidence of a ‘fixed mindset’ – and I think that people with fixed mindsets often look for something or someone else to blame when things don’t go the way they’d like.

In my zealous quest to become a ‘good parent’ I’ve read countless books on childhood development, and the research appears to be unanimous – a growth mindset trumps a fixed one in pursuit of life success. In applying the theory, instead of telling my kids that they were ‘smart’ or ‘talented’ when they did something great (encouraging fixed mindset), I’d say things like, ‘Wow, you must have put in your best effort’, or ‘I can see that you’ve worked really hard’ (encouraging growth mindset). Having witnessed my kids respond incredibly well to this approach, when I began my Master of Information Studies in 2018, I knew it was time to develop a growth mindset for myself.

I decided to read the following two widely acclaimed books; Carol Dweck’s Mindset and Angela Duckworth’s Grit, and I cannot recommend them enough.

In my personal experience, it has been worth taking the time to read these – to read them more than once in fact. After receiving the grade for my second ever assessment, I was indignant. I’d worked so hard! I considered that perhaps my marker’s personal preference was for a different approach, and felt peeved. But after allowing myself an inner tantrum, I remembered what I had learned about mindset and grit. I read the marker’s comments, and in my next assessment I worked hard to address the feedback I’d been given. (I was still peeved). It looks like the marker was onto something (who knew that the experienced professional and academic would know better than I?!). Because since then, my grades have vastly improved, and so has my learning. These days I’m hungry for critical feedback on my work. How else will I get better? But it took reading these two seminal books on mindset and grit to really appreciate the feedback, instead of just paying lip service to it.

So, if you are keen to find an edge to improve your grades, give it a go. Yes, you’ve likely got assessments to write, and countless textbooks and journal articles that need your attention. Could you then borrow the audiobook versions, and listen while you cook dinner or fold washing, or build your dream house out of Lego? It’s worth finding the time!

If there are any other books – or films, documentaries, anything really – that you feel have helped you become a better student, please tell us about them in the comments!

Happy studying,

Rebecca

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