Author: Karl C. Alvestad, Project Officer – University of Winchester

As the first year of the Changing Mindsets Project is drawing to a close, and as the evaluation of the first cohort are underway, we are preparing for sharing some of our initial discoveries with you. Since May 2017 I have been working as a Research Officer on the Changing Mindsets project at The University of Winchester, and I have to admit it has been an exciting and interesting year. Over the last year we have delivered over 100 Changing Mindsets interventions across 4 programmes here at Winchester. As a result of these interventions we have learned a lot about what might work for engaging students in developing a growth mindset. Therefore, I hope here to give you a taster for what we have found, and some initial thoughts about what this might mean for the next steps leading up to cohort 2, and for our project overall.

During the last few weeks I have been talking to academics from the courses that have participated in our project this year and one of them reported:

‘I believe we need to make the growth mindset, implicit bias, and stereotype threats more relevant for students by veiling it in discipline materials’

The lecturer what responding to a question about what would make students engage more, and how we could best integrate and deliver Changing Mindsets in their discipline in the future. A similar observation also emerged from one of our peer leaders when they reflected on why more students didn’t attend or engage with the sessions we offered.

‘I have heard so many students say: “why am I doing this if it’s not relevant for my assessments?”’
   – Changing Mindsets Peer Leader during debrief session after the final intervention session.

A number of participants have also shared this sentiment, and noted ‘it would be better if more people took part.’ Yet they also claim they have found the sessions to be useful and that they had changed – if even in some small parts – the way they studied and engaged with their assessments. Just hearing and reading these statements suggests to me that we have had impact, but that we faced some challenges with number of attendees in our sessions and the retention of students throughout the course of the interventions. On the basis of this we have identified a number of things that worked well and some aspects that have room for improvement. These are we believe that a peer led intervention and input is still a good format for engaging students, but to achieve a more holistic experience of embedding the interventions – which we believe will positively impact the student attendance patterns – we are working towards a greater tutor involvement in the interventions and a deeper subject embedding of the content. By this we mean that via greater subject embedding the changing mindsets material will feel relevant for students and easier to engage with in lectures and seminars for academic tutors, and that this may lead to an effective and well received series of interventions. At the core of these adaptations in our method of delivery are our strong convictions that students benefit from peer-to-peer interactions and that they may be gains focused in their selection process of what to attend and interact with. Consequently a peer-led, tutor supported and subject embedded intervention will to my mind plausibly address some of the challenges we have experiences this year and provide an avenue for sustainable delivery of the Changing Mindsets interventions in British Higher Education.

At the conference on the 28th June I will explore this further, and explore how the discipline and subject grounding will be a crucial component of a successful intervention model in Higher Education.


Growth Mindset and Challenging Barriers via Subject Integration and Peer Engagement
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