2.2 The Mindset of a Motivated Learner

“Everything you can imagine is real.”
– Pablo Picasso

Questions to consider:

  • How do different types of motivation affect my learning?
  • What is resilience?
  • What is a growth mindset, and how does it affect my learning?

Learning Objectives

  • To understand the role of motivation in learning
  • To define the term resilience and understand it’s role in growth mindset
  • Outline the elements of growth mindset
  • Apply growth mindset techniques and conscious decision making strategies to take an active role in learning

In this section, you will continue to increase your ability as an informed learner. Here you will explore how much of an influence motivation has on learning, as well as how to use motivation to purposefully take an active role in any learning activity. Rather than passively attempting to absorb new information, you will learn how to make conscious decisions about the methods of learning you will use (based on what you intend to do with the information), how you will select and use learning materials that are appropriate for your needs, and how persistent you will be in the learning activity. You will find that each of the strategies and techniques mentioned in this chapter will enable you to engage with learning material in a way that not only suits your needs, but also gives you ownership over your own learning processes.

  • Motivation is defined as the general desire or willingness of someone to do something.
  • Conscious Decision Making  is defined as the action or process of making decisions with awareness and knowledge; especially important ones.

A mushroom growing on the inside of a hollow tree.

‘Resilience’ Image by nonmisvegliate from Pixabay


  • Resilience can be defined as personal perseverance toward a task or goal. In learning, it can be thought of as a trait that drives a person to keep trying until they succeed. It is not tied to talent or ability, but is simply a tendency to not give up until something is finished or accomplished.

Understanding the act of resilience

The concept of becoming resilient is an easy one to dismiss as something taken for granted. In our culture, we have a number of sayings and aphorisms that capture the essence of resilience: “If at first you do not succeed, try, try again,” or the famous quote by Thomas Edison: “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

The problem is we all understand the concept, but actually applying it takes work. If the task we are trying to complete is a difficult one, it can take a lot of work.

The first step in applying resilience is,

  • to adopt an attitude that looks directly to the end goal as the only acceptable outcome.
  • With this attitude comes an acceptance that you may not succeed on the first attempt—or the nineteenth attempt.
  • Failed attempts are viewed as merely part of the process and seen as a very useful way to gain knowledge that moves you toward success.

An example of this would be your course assignments. You started the first assignment by simply reading the assignment expectations and answered questions briefly. You were surprised at the low score on the assignment. 

For your second assignment, rather than being disappointed at your previous grade, you decide to review all parts of the assignment carefully. You also took the time to read the faculty feedback provided on your first assignment. Your marks on the second assignment improved a lot. You still feel you have not received a score you were aiming for.

On the third assignment, you make notes as the faculty is explaining the assignment expectations. You are actively engaged during this class and ask lots of questions to seek clarification on all parts of the assignment. You also note down and highlight key words and review the grading guide . While completing this assignment, you keep referring to the grading guide and your notes to ensure you have covered all parts of the assignment. You are thrilled at the A+ you received and the faculty feedback on how you are improving in the quality of your work.

This is how you have demonstrated resilience. You do not stop or get discouraged, instead you changed your approach to use other methods to succeed and accomplish your goal of receiving a higher mark on your assignments.

The above mentioned steps of building resilience can easily be applied to all parts of your college life from assignment submissions, studying for tests, group work, presentations and field placements. Resilient students know how to bounce back and never give up. Resilient students can accept and work on the feedback received.

Reflection Activity

Read the articles below and in small groups discuss the following:

  1. Provide a definition of Resilience.
  2. Share examples of how resilience is demonstrated by various cultural groups mentioned in the article.

Article # 1 – Stories of resistance: Resilience in the face of racism in education by. Amrita Kauldher – 2020-11-26

Article # 2 – 3 Stories of Indigenous Resilience  by Angela Sterritt CBC Reporter

How Do You Become Resilient?

Angela Duckworth is known for her research on grit, a strength she defines as passion and perseverance for long-term goals. Duckworth has found grit to be a common factor among the high-achievers she has studied. Her work suggests that grit is unrelated to IQ but is closely related to conscientiousness.

Source: https://www.ted.com/talks/angela_lee_duckworth_grit_the_power_of_passion_and_perseverance?utm_campaign=tedspread&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=tedcomshare

Let us review the five basic ideas emphasized by Duckworth. What follows is a brief introduction to each. Note that each thing listed here begins with a verb. In other words, it is an activity for you to do and keep doing in order to build resilience.

1. Pursue what interests you.

Personal interest is a great motivator! People tend to have more resilience when pursuing things that they have developed an interest in.

2. Practice until you can do it, and then keep practicing.

The idea of practicing has been applied to every skill in human experience. The reason everyone seems to be so fixated with practice is because it is effective.

3. Find a purpose in what you do.

Purpose is truly the driver for anything we pursue. If you have a strong purpose in any activity, you have reason to persist at it. Think in terms of end goals and why doing something is worth it. Purpose answers the question of “Why should I accomplish this?”

4. Have hope in what you are doing.

Have hope in what you are doing and in how it will make things different for you or others. While this is somewhat related to purpose, it should be viewed as a separate and positive overall outlook in regard to what you are trying to achieve. Hope gives value to purpose. If purpose is the goal, hope is why the goal is worth attaining at all.

5. Surround yourself with resilient people.

Persistence and tenacity tend to rub off on others, and the opposite does as well. As social creatures we often adopt the behaviors we find in the groups we hang out with. If you are surrounded by people that quit early, before achieving their goals, you may find it acceptable to give up early as well. On the other hand, if your peers are all achievers with resilience, you will tend to exhibit resilience yourself.

Duckworth’s theory is closely connected to the next research model around two mindsets; Fixed Vs Growth mindset. Growth mindset will allow you to learn, grow and embrace challenges, in turn building Grit.

Grit Interview

Choose a person in your life who has demonstrated characteristics of grit. This could be a cousin who plays college soccer, a sibling who plays guitar, a friend who has achieved a particular goal, a neighbor who earned a degree, a parent who received a promotion, etc. The possibilities here are endless.

Ask this person the following questions and record their responses (you can write a summary; you don’t have to re-write their answers word-for-word):

  • What is the biggest goal you’ve set that you were able to achieve?
  • What did you do to accomplish that goal?
  • How did you deal with challenges or failures while in pursuit of this goal?
  • Did you ever consider giving up on your goal? If so, how did you overcome that thought?
  • Did you have a support network (people who could help you when you needed it)? How did they help you?
  • How did you feel when you accomplished your goal?
  • What advice do you have for me while I am in college?

Post-Interview Reflection:

Reflect upon your interview.  Make sure to:

  • tell us who you interviewed,
  • what characteristics of grit you think they displayed,
  • and what lessons you can draw from this person’s experience to apply to your own life.

Fixed vs. Growth Mindset

The research-based model of these two mindsets and their influence on learning was presented in 1988 by Carol Dweck. In Dr. Dweck’s work, she determined that a student’s perception about their own learning accompanied by a broader goal of learning had a significant influence on their ability to overcome challenges and grow in knowledge and ability. This has become known as the Fixed vs. Growth Mindset model. In this model, the performance-goal-oriented student is represented by the fixed mindset, while the learning-goal-oriented student is represented by the growth mindset.

In the following graphic, based on Dr. Dweck’s research, you can see how many of the components associated with learning are impacted by these two mindsets.

A diagram illustrates the comparison between “Fixed Mindset” and “Growth Mindset” based on six different parameters.
View Figure Long Description

Image – The differences between fixed and growth mindset are clear when aligned to key elements of learning and personality. (Credit: Based on work by Dr. Carol Dweck)

Fixed Vs Growth Mindset – Self Analysis Activity

Source: Access for free at https://openstax.org/books/college-success/pages/1-introduction

Very few people have a strict fixed or growth mindset all of the time. Often we tend to lean one way or another in certain situations. For example, a person trying to improve their ability in a sport they enjoy may exhibit all of the growth mindset traits and characteristics, but they find themselves blocked in a fixed mindset when they try to learn something in another area like computer programming or arithmetic.

In this exercise, do a little self-analysis and think of some areas where you may find yourself hindered by a fixed mindset. Using the outline presented below, in the far right column, write down how you can change your own behavior for each of the parts of the learning process. What will you do to move from a fixed to a growth mindset? For example, say you were trying to learn to play a musical instrument. In the Challenges row, you might pursue a growth path by trying to play increasingly more difficult songs rather than sticking to the easy ones you have already mastered. In the Criticism row, you might take someone’s comment about a weakness in timing as a motivation for you to practice with a metronome. For Success of others you could take inspiration from a famous musician that is considered a master and study their techniques.

Whatever it is that you decide you want to use for your analysis, apply each of the Growth characteristics to determine a course of action to improve.

Parts of the learning process Growth characteristic What will you do to adopt a growth mindset?
Challenges Embraces challenges
Obstacles Persists despite setbacks
Effort Sees effort as a path to success
Criticism Learns from criticism
Success of Others Finds learning and inspiration in the success of others

Alternatively use the print friendly copy FOS Activity Chapter 2.2

Interested in learning more about yourself?

Go to Unit Activity and attempt Activity # 2 Characteristics of a Successful Student

Key Takeaways

  • Motivation guides your conscious decision about  how you will select and use learning materials that are appropriate for your needs, and how persistent you will be in the learning activity.
  • Resilience will allow a learner in learning, it can be thought of as a trait that drives a person to keep trying until they succeed. It is not tied to talent or ability, but is simply a tendency to not give up until something is finished or accomplished.
  • Student’s perception about their own learning accompanied by a broader goal of learning had a significant influence on their ability to overcome challenges and grow in knowledge and ability.
  • Grit is a very important strength for learning. It impacts one’s passion and perseverance for long-term goals.
  • It is important to build resilience and a growth mindset to learn successfully.

Image Long Descriptions

Figure Description: A diagram illustrates the comparison between “Fixed Mindset” and “Growth Mindset” based on six different parameters. Those parameters are “beliefs about human potential”, “effort and difficulty”, “challenges and obstacles”, “mistakes and failures”, “feedback, criticism, and suggestions”, and “outlook on the future”.

Parameter: Beliefs about human potential

Fixed Mindset: Everyone is born with certain skills and aptitudes.

Growth Mindset: With effective strategies and time, people can improve their skills and aptitudes.

Parameter: Effort and Difficulty

Fixed Mindset: Believe abilities and knowledge that come easily indicate natural talent, and that if something isn’t easy, it cannot be learned.

Growth Mindset: Value the effort itself as a key element of gaining knowledge and mastery.

Parameter: Challenges and Obstacles

Fixed Mindset: Generally avoid challenges and see obstacles as signs they are in the wrong direction.

Growth Mindset: Seek out new challenges and see obstacles as problems to solve and ways to grow.

Parameter: Mistakes and Failures

Fixed Mindset: Hides or makes excuses for mistakes; becomes discouraged and frustrated by failure.

Growth Mindset: Takes ownership of mistakes and understands that failure often leads to learning and long-term success.

Parameter: Feedback, Criticism, and Suggestions

Fixed Mindset: Rejects negative feedback and can become defensive; likely focuses on positive feedback.

Growth Mindset: Appreciates the perspectives of others and welcomes candid feedback.

Parameter: Outlook on the future

Fixed Mindset: Success is limited to a few specific areas along a firmly defined pathway.

Growth Mindset: Success is possible in many areas, once individuals create their own learning pathways.

Attributions and References

This chapter contains adaptations from:

Baldwin, A. (2020). College Success. Provided by: Open Stax.
Book URL: Access for free at https://openstax.org/books/college-success/pages/1-introduction
Section URL: https://openstax.org/books/college-success/pages/2-3-its-all-in-the-mindset
License: CC BY: Attribution

Image Resilience by Nonmisvegliate from Pixabay

 Grit Interview  developed from the article 9 Activities To Build Grit and Resilience in Children
By Ashley Cullins , Source URL: https://biglifejournal.com/blogs/blog/activities-grit-resilience-children



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Fundamentals for Success in College Copyright © 2022 by Priti Parikh, Centennial College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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