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ASC: Supports for Students - Academic Coaching and Study Skills

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

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

By: Chelsey Finney and Cody Rogers

Welcome back! In our final post on Mindsets, we will explore the connection between Fixed Mindsets and Extrinsic Motivation, as well as the relationship between Growth Mindsets and Intrinsic Motivation. We will also illustrate how these dynamics have an impact on your ability to learn!​

How is Extrinsic Motivation connected to a Fixed Mindset?

At the core, extrinsic motivation means we’re driven to accomplish our goals in an effort to receive “payment” in return. For many individuals, this could easily be working for a biweekly paycheque. As students, we study for unit assessments, work at assignments, projects, and presentations for a grade; which constitutes our extrinsic motivation.

But how does this apply to a fixed mindset, you might ask? There are a few ways to think about this. Generally, fixed mindsets are associated with goal-oriented outcomes. Students who struggle with math may think they have no room for improvement, and will, therefore, judge their own success based on the grade(s) they receive. Fixed mindsets and extrinsic motivations go hand-in-hand in a vicious cycle.

How is Intrinsic Motivation linked to a Growth Mindset?

As a recap, intrinsic motivation drives the amount of passion, interest, and effort we put into our assignments and assessments. As students, this motivation may stem from having a genuine interest in the topic of our essay or project. It could also come from us wanting to expand our knowledge on the subject for the sake of pleasure – it has nothing to do with needing to turn in a paper on it.  

So, how does intrinsic motivation foster a growth mindset? Students who have a growth mindset typically self-guide their own learning experiences, exploring different mechanisms to cope with the demands of their courses’ objectives. They are more likely to integrate instructor or peer feedback and think of solutions to their mistakes (Ng, 2018).

A 2014 study demonstrated that the way students approach studying for their exam(s) largely differs according to both mindset and deadlines. The researchers found that students who had fixed mindsets disregarded the value of self-testing and review before their assessment. They bought into the myth of “if we don’t know it by now, we’re never going to.” Students who embodied growth mindsets, however, did see the value of self-testing and reviewing course materials beforehand (Yan, Phuong-Thai and Bjork, 2014). They likely believed that their capacity to learn difficult concepts and theories could still be improved. They just had to work at understanding the idea(s) from multiple angles that made sense to them.

In this Ted Talk, social/development psychologist Carol Dweck speaks on the power of believing you can improve in your learning capacities:


Activity Time!

Want to know where you fall on the Mindset Spectrum? Take this interactive quiz to find out!



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

Yan, V. X., Thai, K. P., & Bjork, R. A. (2014). Habits and Beliefs that Guide Self-Regulated Learning: Do They Vary with Mindset? Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 3(3), 140-152. Retrieved June 17, 2019, from