Promoting mindset change and student success

Robert S. Feldman, Karan Goel, Arthur Blakemore, Mattitiyahu Zimbler

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The first year of college brings a host of new social and academic challenges, and the challenges are very real. In fact, 1 in 3 first-year students drops out of college before the second year, and the numbers are even worse for students enrolled in certain types of institutions. Traditionally, colleges have spent relatively little time educating students on how best to cope with the potential obstacles they may face as first-year students, including the anxiety that comes with starting something new like college. However, a burgeoning body of research suggests that such an education can have important effects on student success. For instance, by helping students understand that their anxiety is common to the experience itself rather than a personal failing, that the experience of failure is a necessary aspect of growth rather than an indication of unsuitability for college, and that with effort any individual student can succeed, colleges can reduce and normalize the anxiety of college life. In this chapter, we explore the concept of mindset, as mindset has surprisingly powerful effects on students’ academic success or failure, and it can be turned into a positive force in students’ academic experiences without the expenditure of vast institutional resources. We begin by defining and describing the concept of mindset, especially as it affects the experiences, achievements, and sense of belonging of incoming college students. Then we review the growing body of literature establishing the theoretical basis and effects of mindset. Next, we discuss promising interventions designed to foster positive academic and personal behaviors in students, especially at the collegiate level, including interventions designed for educators. We conclude with ideas for implementing intervention efforts on campuses and practical advice for interventions targeted at students, at faculty, and at the institutions themselves. We argue that by focusing on providing resources to improve students’ subjective experiences in college, institutions can show their commitment to valuing each student’s education while simultaneously increasing retention, academic satisfaction, and achievement. The Concept of Mindset In groundbreaking research, Dweck and Leggett (1988) set out to explain why some students, when faced with a difficult task, engage the challenge and persist, while others grow disheartened and lose interest. After repeated studies of this phenomenon, a pattern emerged that consistently identified two divergent reactions to failure (Ames, 1984; Diener & Dweck, 1980; Elliott & Dweck, 1988).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe First Year of College
Subtitle of host publicationResearch, Theory, and Practice on Improving the Student Experience and Increasing Retention
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages32
ISBN (Electronic)9781316811764
ISBN (Print)9781107176287
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Promoting mindset change and student success'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this