The Effect of a Growth Mindset Intervention on Motivation and Learning in Higher Vocational Education.

  • Henriëtte Versprille

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


The shortage of qualified engineers in the Netherlands is growing. Meanwhile, many engineering students in higher education switch studies or drop out. For this reason, it is important to enhance student success, especially in the technical domain, through optimising students’ learning conditions in a way to stimulate their motivation and lower the perceived study load. The theoretical framework of growth mindset belief assumes learners with a growth mindset are more motivated to learn. Within this framework, many researchers investigated the effect of a short growth mindset intervention to improve students’ learning performance, with mixed results. Still, relevant motivational variables like attribution to learning, achievement goal orientation and situational interest, together with processes like perceived cognitive load are still largely unexplored.
This study expands on previous research by investigating how a repeated growth mindset intervention, tailored to a mathematics course, can foster engineering bachelor students’ motivated learning. A sample of 55 first year engineering students participated in a randomised controlled experimental design to assess the effectiveness of a growth mindset intervention. To measure the effect of a double growth mindset intervention, the intervention was repeated after eight weeks. For the first intervention participants were randomly assigned to the experimental (n = 30) or active control condition (n = 25). For the second intervention, the remaining students after attrition were randomly assigned to the experimental (n = 18) or active control condition (n = 21).
During the experiment, participants in the growth mindset condition read about the malleability of the brain, then wrote this message in their own words in a note to a fellow student. Participants in the control condition read and summarised a text on brain functioning in general. This reading and writing task was followed by questionnaires measuring growth mindset, other motivational variables (attribution of learning to controllable causes, achievement goal orientation, situational interest) and perceived cognitive load. Learning performance was measured by the results of two partial examinations.
The intervention did not significantly result in higher growth mindset belief. Some significant effects were measured on attribution to learning; the remaining variables achievement goal orientation, situational interest, perceived cognitive load and learning performance showed no significant effects, although results did point into the expected direction. As a result, this study cannot confirm the effectiveness of a mindset intervention on the measured variables on bachelor engineering students.
Additional research is needed to investigate whether a growth mindset intervention is effective for these students. First, the sample size should be increased with engineering students from comparable courses in higher education, to investigate the external validity.
Date of Award19 Jul 2021
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorKate Xu (Supervisor)


  • growth mindset
  • attribution
  • motivation
  • situational interest
  • achievement goal orientation
  • cognitive load
  • learning performance
  • mathematics

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