The Role of Mindset and Motivation in the Academic Performance of First-Year Secondary School Students

A recent study (Boncquet et al., 2023) investigated the influence of mindset and motivation on the academic performance of first-year secondary school students (N=3415). This study focused on the quality of motivation according to self-determination theory and the mindset about intelligence following Carol Dweck's framework. The goal was to reveal the impact on learning outcomes such as engagement, learning strategies, and performance.

Research Design

Boncquet and colleagues' study examined the influence of mindset and motivation on students' learning experiences. The research employed a longitudinal design, tracking students over a two-year period. The sample consisted of 3,415 students (N=3415), with an average age of 12.65 years, of which 49.8% were female. There were four measurement points, with six-month intervals.

Between-Person and Within-Person Design

An important aspect of this research was the use of both a between-person and within-person design.

  • A between-person design looks at the differences among various students, such as how one student differs from another in terms of motivation and mindset.
  • A within-person design, on the other hand, focuses on changes within the same individuals over time, which in this case meant examining how a student's motivation and mindset fluctuate from semester to semester.

Combining these two approaches enables researchers to gain deeper insight into how these psychological factors not only vary among different students but also how they develop and change within individual students. This is crucial because it provides a more complete picture of the dynamics of motivation and mindset in the context of learning.


Here are the key findings from the research:

  1. Positive Influence of Autonomous Motivation: Students with high autonomous motivation tend to have higher levels of engagement, a deeper approach to learning, and greater perseverance in their schoolwork. They are also less prone to procrastination.
  2. Positive Influence of Growth Mindset: Effort belief, a core component of the growth mindset, is positively correlated with engagement in the learning process, deep learning, and perseverance. Students with a strong growth mindset are less likely to procrastinate.
  3. Negative Influence of Controlled Motivation: Students with controlled motivation exhibit more superficial learning strategies and experience higher levels of test anxiety.
  4. Negative Influence of Fixed Mindset: A fixed mindset has a slight but significant positive correlation with test anxiety and a negative association with engagement. Students who believe their abilities are fixed may be less engaged in their learning process.

Significance and Applications

Boncquet et al.'s study underscores the importance of autonomous motivation and a growth mindset in fostering positive learning experiences. Educational strategies that support these factors may be essential to increasing engagement in learning and perseverance in schoolwork. Encouraging a growth mindset and autonomous motivation is vital to helping students actively pursue their learning goals and be resilient in the face of challenges. These insights are fundamental in developing educational practices that aim not only to impart knowledge but also to assist students in realizing their potential and optimizing their learning performance.