Changing Mindsets and Becoming Gritty: Mature Students' Learning Experiences in a UK University and Beyond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article focuses on narrative interviews with mature students at one partner university that was part of the UK higher education (HE) Changing Mindsets project and research (2017–19). Changing Mindsets comprised workshops and training aimed at supporting students and staff in five participating universities to develop a growth mindset and diminish implicit bias and stereotype threat. This would help increase staff expectations of learners and student engagement. Inductive analysis of interviews identified ways in which mature students benefited from Changing Mindsets workshops, and how their developing growth mindset in combination with grit strengthened their sense of agency and ability to succeed in higher education and aspects of life outside university. Our original contribution to knowledge stems from mature students’ retrospective accounts of developing a growth mindset and grit before starting HE; and how they became more aware of and developed these traits at university following the Changing Mindsets workshops.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalInnovations in Education and Teaching International
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This article emerged from the Changing Mindsets Project funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE)/Office for Students (OfS) Catalyst Fund, which was led by the University of Portsmouth (2017–2019). In this project, workshops and training were introduced in five participating universities to support undergraduates to adopt a growth mindset, ‘the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts’ (Dweck, , p. 18); and to become more aware of and try to overcome implicit biases and stereotype threat. Theoretically, adopting a growth mindset would enable all students to enhance their sense of belonging in higher education (HE), their engagement in learning and their achievement. This article presents original qualitative research findings, comprising narrative interviews at one partner UK university that was part of the overarching project. These particularly focus on the experiences of mature students (although both young and mature students participated in the interviews at our university and the other participating institutions). Emerging findings identified how mature students developed grit, defined as ‘trait-level perseverance and passion for long term goals’ (Duckworth & Quinn, , p. 48) in relation to a growth mindset. The importance of HE students’ development of grit may be particularly relevant during world crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent survey of UK HE students’ experiences during the pandemic found that their mental health difficulties and loneliness had increased; and their student satisfaction and success had been adversely affected (Office for National Statistics, ). Kannangara et al. conceptualise how developing a growth mindset, combined with wellbeing, self-control and responsibility for choices, benefits mature students’ success (Kannangara et al., ), and are key elements associated with grit. We conceptualise grit as a toolbox that can enable students to develop the necessary sense of how to survive, the agency to resist structural forces that perpetuate inequalities, and to succeed in HE and beyond. i

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Growth mindset
  • Grit
  • Mature students
  • Higher Education
  • Confidence
  • Agency


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