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Academic Coaching and Study Skills

Blog Post # 8: Do I Have a Fixed Mindset or Growth Mindset? (Part I)

Do I Have a Fixed Mindset or Growth Mindset? (Part I)

 By: Chelsey Finney and Cody Rogers

When you study, do you have to bribe yourself with a reward to concentrate? Or do you find it easy to study, because you’re interested in the theories y and want to learn more about them it? Do you ever want to give up when learning a new equation, because it’s too difficult? Does failing an assessment make you want to find new ways to study, so you’ll do better the next time?​

Originally conceptualized by social psychologist Carol Dweck, the Fixed vs. Growth Mindset theory has come to have many implications in the classroom. A mindset is a perception or theory of oneself. You can be aware or unaware of your own mindset, though it still impacts your ability to learn, acquire skills, develop personal relationships, and succeed professionally (Partnership, 2013).

In a snapshot, students with Fixed Mindsets believe that the traits they have (e.g. capacity to learn) cannot be improved with hard work. They perceive their base-line of traits to be enough to warrant academic, interpersonal, and professional success on their own. Students with these mindsets tend to rationalize why they can’t learn what is asked of them.

Those with Growth Mindsets, comparably, believe the traits they possess can be improved with hard work, dedication, and intrinsic motivation. Students with this mindset tend to learn more at a quick pace and view their failures as opportunities for development (Partnership, 2013).

The combination of motivation and mindset have an impact in the way you approach assignments (individual or group), preparing for assessments, or taking lecture notes. These pairings are Fixed Mindset & Extrinsic Motivation as well as Growth Mindset & Intrinsic Motivation.

What is Motivation?

Motivation drives all of our behaviours! Motivation is the desire we have to get out of bed and complete our dailytasks (e.g. eating breakfast in the morning) as well as accomplishing our goals (e.g. passing that big exam, or ultimately graduating). It is fuelled by the neurotransmitter of dopamine. As a neurological chemical, dopamine plays a role in regulating the brain’s reward/pleasure, emotional/behavioural, and learning domains (Ng, 2018). It is arguable that the reward/pleasure domain of the brain plays a role in both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation refers to our internal desire to do something or accomplish a goal out of genuine passion or interest. For some, this may be learning an instrument, playing a sport or video game, watching Netflix or reading a novel. In short, we do it because we like it because it’s fun, or interesting and enjoyable. When we’re motivated by our own self-interest, we’re more likely to work towards improving our learning and skills in any of the hobbies or skills we put time into. Rather than comparing yourself to others, you’re more likely to compare to your older self and recognize how much you’ve improved! 

Extrinsic motivation refers to any outside factors that are influencing our desire to complete a task or accomplish goals. For students, grades are a primary extrinsic motivator. There are many different extrinsic motivators outside of school that push us to seek out new endeavours in life, such as paycheques or even the approval of family and friends. Unfortunately, we can get too hung up on our extrinsic motivators, which can kill our passion for the project. This leaves us only focusing on the reward at the finish line. As a result, we can find ourselves comparing our outcomes to other people's outcomes, rather than how we have or could continue to improve.


Reflection Time!

What is/was your motivation to enrol in your current program? Try to list three intrinsic motivators and three extrinsic motivators? Bonus points if you can apply them to course work!



Partnership, G. S. (2013, August 29). Growth Mindset Definition. Retrieved June 12, 2019, from

Ng, B. (2018). The Neuroscience of Growth Mindset and Intrinsic Motivation. Brain Sciences, 8(20), 1-10. Retrieved June 17, 2019, from