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  • Learning Mindset research method

    If you are interested in adapting your education to improve student autonomy, you may – like us – be curious to see the impacts of your efforts. Below are the main outcome variables we have studied so far - and if you want to read more, see our Concept Note . 1. Uptake: do students use our tools? Definition. The extent to which learners exposed to a new teaching tool actually use it in the way that is intended. Why study this? Understanding uptake is essential to understanding the impact of any product or service. How to measure it? We use different ways of measuring uptake, depending on the tool you use and the way you implement it in your courses. It is most easily measured if the tool is implemented in a digital (online) way, for example a Teams quiz or similar, as student activity is automatically logged. If you use other implementation approaches, you can still easily measure uptake by asking students to submit their work (e.g. for a pass/fail grade), or by sending a survey in which you ask about uptake directly (could be easily combined with an evaluation of user experience, see below). 2. User experience: how do students experience our tools? Definition. User experience can be divided into a wide range of dimensions (cf. Zarour et al. 2017), but we choose to focus simply on the extent to which users like different aspects of our teaching tools. Why study this? Although learning does not always have to be a pleasant experience, we think that a good user experience can enhance the uptake and impact of our teaching tools. How to measure it? Although you can measure this in any number of ways, including with smiley- or star-ratings, we prefer to ask two simple, open questions in an online survey (e.g. Qualtrics): -What did you like about the intervention/tool? -What improvements would you suggest? References. Zarour, M., Alharbi, M., & Park, E. (2017). User experience framework that combines aspects, dimensions, and measurement methods. Cogent Engineering, 4(1). 3. Learner autonomy: to what extent do our tools help learners become more autonomous and self-regulated? Definition. We understand autonomy as the ability to direct one’s own learning (cf. Benson 2011). This requires developing an understanding of your goals as well as the ability to regulate your learning behaviour, which involves an iterative process from goal setting to taking action (practicing deliberately) and seeking and using feedback to set new goals. Why study this? Autonomy is intrinsically important because it helps people give meaning to their lives. Moreover, it helps people shape their life in the way they want and engage with it intentionally and with volition. We believe it is arguably the key learning objective of higher education and will only grow in importance as information sources multiply, the labour market becomes more dynamic, and the world continues to globalize. For learning specifically, autonomy is widely thought to make learning both more meaningful and more effective. How to measure it. Before engaging with the myriad self-reported measurements of learner autonomy, we prefer two relatively straightforward measures: 1. Recording the responses of the learners to the prompts provided in our educational tools. This provides a direct, objective measure of learner autonomy: to what extent, and in what ways, do students engage in goal setting, deliberate practice, and feedback collection and processing? This rich, qualitative data can be coded for quantitative analysis. It can also be related to the many other, self-reported measures of autonomy. 2. A direct question about the subjective experience of the learner, e.g. “To what extent do you feel this tool helped you to direct your learning process?” Reference. Benson, P. (2011). Teaching and researching autonomy. Longman. 4. Motivation: do our interventions change student motivation for learning? Definition. We view motivation as the reasons underlying behaviour (cf. Lai 2011). We are specifically interested in strengthening motivations for learning through the implementation of our tools. Why study this? Motivation is a necessary condition for meaningful and effective learning. We have therefore designed our teaching tools to enhance learner autonomy as well as their motivation for learning and are curious to evaluate and understand their impacts. How to measure it. To measure motivation, we use two simple approaches: 1. Ask students directly in a brief survey, before and after our intervention, to rate their motivation for their course(s), research project, or other learning opportunity. Where ethically acceptable, such a study can be set up as an experiment, with a control group without exposure to the prompted reflection tool and a treatment group that does engage with it. 2. Ask students to reflect directly about what happens to their motivation during the intervention, either in a (repeated) survey or live interview. Reference. Lai, E. R. (2011). Motivation: A literature review. Person Research’s Report, 6. Here we have described our approach to measuring these outcomes. If you would like us to share a full version of our online surveys that you can use for your students, please get in touch.

  • What are our values as a team?

    At the heart of the Learning Mindset team lies a framework of values that shape our work, drive our passion, and propel us forward. In this blog post, we invite you to delve into the core principles that define us—a team committed to fostering self-regulated and autonomous learning among students worldwide.     1. Exchanging ideas in a collaborative environment   Our team thrives on the dynamic exchange of ideas. We believe that true innovation emerges when diverse minds come together. Our team-members have diverse backgrounds and interests, ensuring broad discussions and providing multiple perspectives on various matters. We cherish the collaborative spirit that fuels our creativity through our weekly team meetings.      2. Every voice matters  At Learning Mindset, hierarchy takes a back seat. We operate from the bottom up, where each team member’s contribution is valued. In our weekly meetings we start with a check-in, ensuring that everyone feels heard and that we foster trust.      3. Fueling curiosity: our “lab days”  In our team we value curiosity and exploring new ideas and approaches to further refine our methods and enhance the learning experience for our users. In our “lab days” we dive into different subjects, unafraid to challenge conventions. This is a space where questions sprout and ideas collide.     4. Co-creation with partners: a global network  Learning transcends borders, and so does our network. We engage in conversations with partners from universities in the Netherlands, Nigeria, Kenya, and elsewhere. These interactions are not mere exchanges: they are co-creative journeys. We listen, learn, and weave solutions together. Our global perspective infuses our work with fresh insights, ensuring that our methods resonate with students worldwide.     As we navigate the ever-evolving landscape of education, we keep true to our values. We believe in inclusion, innovation, the power of collaboration, and global impact. Learning Mindset is a team determined to shaping the future of learning together with you!

  • What can we collaborate on?

    At the heart of Learning Mindset is student motivation and empowerment. We believe in nurturing autonomy and self-regulated learning among students worldwide. Our teaching tools are easily and freely available on our website, because we believe that education is for everyone.  However, no two educational contexts are alike and that is why we also offer partnership options, allowing us to tailor our methods to your unique needs. Let’s explore how we can collaborate!     Workshops   Our workshops for learners are interactive and function as a catalyst for change. We function as a facilitator and motivate learners to take a deep dive into their own learning. We primarily give workshops on setting goals and giving feedback but are open to new demands.       Research collaborations  Research fuels progress. Let’s join forces to explore the education domain further. Our team thrives on collaboration, and we are eager to contribute to more scholarly conversations. Whether it is on sharing research insights, or actively collaborating on new research, we are open to uncover innovative approaches that elevate student learning.      Co-creation   In our co-creation space, we invite you to join us in designing the future of education. Whether it is about refining existing tools or dreaming up novel solutions, your input matters. We would love to sculpt our Learning Mindset methods and tailor it to your educational situation and needs.      So, let’s transform learning together! Ready to dive in? Visit our comprehensive overview page here and let’s embark on a transformative partnership!

  • Why should educators facilitate autonomy?

    Autonomy is the freedom and ability to take control of your own learning process.  There is plenty of research on the topic, and here we present the five most powerful impacts of autonomy in learning:     🔗 1 . Autonomy increases motivation     Fostering autonomy means that learners can set their own goals and that they have agency over their learning process. If learners can set goals that are personally relevant and steer their learning in a direction that is exciting for them, it creates a sense of ownership. That in turn impacts motivation. Studies consistently show that autonomous learners are more intrinsically motivated and show more engagement in their learning process.     🔗 2. Autonomy fosters effective learning skills     The process of setting your own goals requires learners to reflect on their aspirations, analyse their strengths and weaknesses, make decisions, develop a strategy to reach their goal and to deal with challenges. All of these are important skills that support learners in all areas of their learning.    🔗 3. Autonomy increases academic achievement     Research consistently shows that autonomous learner show higher levels of academic success. Since auontomous learners are more intrinsically motivated, more engaged, and have more effective learning, they also achieve better grades and reach a deeper understanding of course material.    🔗 4. Autonomy improves self-efficacy and wellbeing     The experience of being able to reach a goal that you set yourself greatly contributes to feelings of self-efficacy and confidence. Self-efficacy is connected to wellbeing. According to research, autonomous learners show higher levels of self-efficacy as well as wellbeing.  🔗 5. Autonomy cultivates a habit of lifelong learning     The skills that learners can develop through autonomous learning are the basis for lifelong learning. Research shows that autonomous learners are more likely to seek out learning experiences outside of formal education.

  • What is our story?

    The sudden arrival of COVID-19 disrupted educational norms. Students could no longer see each other in buzzing lecture halls or partake in lively classroom discussions. Instead, they were bound to their computer screens and grappling with motivation, loneliness, and other challenges to effective learning and well-being. We used this strange historical moment to help students with finding motivation independently and foster their autonomy in creating their own learning strategies.      Aha! moment  We quickly realized that reflection plays a very important role in autonomous and self-regulated learning. We had already experimented with skills and journaling among students, and soon we had that aha-moment of operationalising autonomous learning as a cycle, from goal setting to practice and feedback. We then expanded and took the opportunity of helping students reshape their way of learning and create a growth mindset. We did so by creating practical tools that could help them reflect on their own learning process. However, we also acknowledged that students should get the space to be able to reflect and we invited teachers and educators to partake in our journey.       Exploring our way of working   From the outset, co-creation was a term that we identified us with: a diverse team of teachers, students, and other educators. Collaboration became our fertile ground. Luckily, Leiden University College gave us space to experiment, innovate, and adapt. Our dynamic collaboration ultimately resulted in us winning second place at the Hogeronderwijspremie! With this success in mind, we were ready to scale up Learning Mindset across the educational domain.      Scaling up  Scaling up our method is exactly what we are now doing. We want Learning Mindset to be as accessible as possible for users, learners, teachers, and researchers from all over the world. In practice this means redesigning our website, setting clear conditions, and investing in our partnerships.      We are proud of what we have accomplished so far, and ready to go even further with transforming learning processes of learners from all over the world!

  • How to grade reflection?

    All our tools are based on reflection. Reflection is highly personal and therefore difficult to assess. There are 4 options: letter grading, no grading, pass fail-grading and self-evaluation. 1. Letter grading Studies show that clear grading rubrics can bias students’ reflections, as they might be writing to the rubric rather than expressing their true feelings. Also, grades can draw the attention away from the reflective practice, which is then counterproductive. We do not recommend letter grading for reflections.   2. No grading Some argue, that reflections are so personal, that learners shouldn’t have to share it with their educators or peers. Nevertheless, we have made the experience that students get bombarded with tasks in their university life, and if an assignment is not graded, it might get neglected. However, it is important to keep in mind that reflection assignments require trust between educator and learner, which needs some time to build.   3. Pass/ fail grading Some studies suggest pass/fail grading for reflection assignments. We also have made great experiences with “grading for completion,” which means that students pass as long as they submit something. That way, there is enough incentive for students to engage with the assignment, but not the pressure and bias that comes with letter grading.   4. Self-evaluation Some scholars suggest honest reflection can be a form of self-assessment. Self-assessment can be a great way to give students autonomy, and to build trust in the learner – educator relationship

  • How to implement our tools?

    If you are interested in Learning Mindset’s prompted reflection tools , you may wonder how you can implement them in your own teaching. Here are some key lessons that we have learnt in our own journey so far. 1. Start small Most of our tools are designed to be easy to implement, but they can have big effects on student learning and the dynamics of your teaching. So don’t feel you have to do everything at once: start small, with the tool you feel most comfortable with, hand it out to students, and see what happens. 2. Get the timing right Timing is everything in teaching , because a teaching technique works best if it is synchronised with the goals and level of understanding of the student at the time it’s implemented. For example, broad-view envisioning exercises [link to future self] can work well at the start of a programme or course, while self-generated feedback [link] works best if it is integrated into a (graded) assignment. So think carefully about how you time the implementation of our tools, and experiment to see when they work best. 3. Explain the tools - and your intentions for them - clearly to the students While our tools are easy to implement, they may not feel easy to students. So it is important to explain the tools clearly to the students. It can also be very effective if you let students discuss together what they think “good” use of the teaching tool means (i.e. let them define success criteria), and identify what they think it could help them learn. 4. Try scaffolding Scaffolding means providing temporary instruction or support as learners develop new skills, gradually reducing this assistance as they improve. Some of the skills in our tools, such as setting goals or dealing with feedback, can be difficult at first. Similarly, students may need help creating the habits that some of our tools require - such as setting intentions for every class or assignment. In those cases, it pays off to ‘take students by the hand’ in the early parts of your course, and then gradually tell them to use our tools more independently. This not only improves their learning, but also helps them to engage in prompted reflection in a more self-regulated manner. 5. Engage with students’ responses (but don’t overburden yourself) All of our tools involve some manner of prompted reflection, in which students are asked to respond to specific prompts. In principle, teachers do not have to engage with these responses for the tools to help students learn more autonomously. Yet it is our experience that it helps greatly if, in some way, you can help students make their responses meaningful. This could mean that you, as teacher, give feedback on certain reflections, or facilitate a class discussion in which students share and discuss their thoughts. But for larger classes, it could also mean organising peer groups in which students discuss their reflections, or integrating their feedback into an already-existing assignment (e.g. with the self-generated feedback). Whichever way you do it, we suggest that you try to engage with student reflections in some form - not only because it motivates and helps the students, but also because you can learn a lot from it. 6. If you grade, grade for effort and not for content We have a mixed experience with grading student reflections. On the one hand, grading runs the real risk of  crowding out  intrinsic motivation for reflection and turning the exercise into “yet another thing” students have to do to get a good grade. We have experienced this effect many times and seen how it reduces the positive impact of our tools considerably. On the other hand, we have also experienced that students often need  some  extrinsic motivation to engage with the tools at all. If you feel that way and would like to use grades as extrinsic motivation, we therefore suggest [link to other article about how to grade reflection] that you grade only for effort, and ideally with pass/fail grades or for a very small percentage of the final grade.   Most of all though, we hope you have fun trying out our different tools in your classrooms and curricula. We think they not only help students learn better and more meaningfully, but also provide us teachers with a great opportunity to learn: about our students’ needs and ambitions, and the best ways of helping them work towards them.

  • What do we mean by autonomy?

    It is easy to define autonomy in the abstract, as the ability to chart your own course in life – but what does that mean, exactly? First, you need a sense of direction: Where is it that you want to go? How do you choose your path from the seemingly endless range of possibilities that the modern world offers? How do you make sure you have enough information about the various options before making a choice? And how do you disentangle the expectations of others from your own wishes and desires? Answering these questions is necessary, but not sufficient for an autonomous life. For even with a sense of direction, you need a strategy to work towards your objectives, as well as the self-regulatory capacities to pursue it.   Let’s say you know you want an international career as a diplomat. You then have to develop a strategy to get there - for example, studying international relations and finding relevant international internships. But you also need to have the skills and grit required to actually achieve these things: put in the effort to get sufficiently high grades in school and university, undertake extracurriculars that build a CV that meets the requirements of the Foreign Ministry, and make sure you develop the social skills and personal connections that matter in this line of work.   And this is most likely only one of your goals in life. Because as you grow older, you develop new relationships and responsibilities. You change, as do your circumstances, and you learn more about yourself and the things that matter to you. And so as you focus your efforts on achieving your diplomatic dreams, you also have reconcile this goal with your other ambitions and allow yourself to adapt to new experiences along the way.   What happens if you don’t do these things? In the 1952 movie Ikiru , a successful but terminally ill bureaucrat finds that life has passed him by, lived largely unintentionally. In the few months that remain to him, he is left desperately reflecting and redirecting his life in search for meaning.   What if he had stopped to pause and think much earlier on, to check in with his goals and updated his strategies to achieve them? At their core, this is what our LM tools help you do: to slow down the train of life so you can check in with your goals and redirect your actions to align with them. And you can use the learning cycle to do this .

  • Partnering with Learning Mindset

    Learning Mindset is always happy to connect with you over a cup of coffee, but also excited to enter real partnership with you. For those circumstances these are our partnership principles. As we are entering into discussions around partnerships, we would like to share with you our guiding partnership principles and see if you agree with them. Co-creation goals LM wants to work with you to co-create products that work for you in your learning setting and carry forward the Learning Mindset’s mission to promote autonomous learning. We want to start our conversations with a good understanding of each other's goals and where there is overlap (or conflict). Clear workplan We then like to put together a work plan where we set clear expectations around the division of labor (design, implementation, research), timeline, division of costs, use of facilities, and other relevant issues. Based on this, we would like to sign a partnership agreement once we have one drafted and approved by our legal support. Open access  Although the products we design with you are fully customized for your purposes, we strive to make a version of them widely available for others to make use of. Accordingly, we aim to share the public version of our products under: CC BY-NC Creative Commons with Attribution and NonCommercial. This license allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format for noncommercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator(s). We have specified attribution in our partnership agreement. Fair attribution  We aim to give the creators (and funders, if relevant) clear acknowledgement in some form. This does include Learning Mindset and Leiden University logos and the logos of partner institutions. Personal names of lead creators/authors may also be justified. Making full use   With fair attribution to all co-creators, Learning Mindset and partners are free (encouraged even) to make use of co-created products for promotion and advertisement and for research purposes.  Inclusive and ethical research  Learning Mindset and partners take joint responsibility to ensure the ethical and GDPR compliant handling of data. Ownership of data derived from this partnership is shared between LM and partners and publications can take any variety of forms (newsletters, journal articles, podcasts, books, etc.). We encourage invitations to co-author any publications resulting from this collaboration. Authorship is based on contributions, as per usual academic standards, and to be discussed in the initial stages of planning the publication. If you are interested in collaborating with Learning Mindset, please send us an email to . We are looking forward to hear from you!

  • What is the learning cycle?

    The learning cycle is a model for how we learn autonomously: how we transform our experiences into new knowledge and skills that align with the kinds of lives we want to live, and the people we want to be and become. It is based on Kolb's (2014) model for experiential learning, but also integrates insights from cognitive psychology, the science of expertise, and from mindfulness.   Its core idea is simple: you learn autonomously by setting yourself a learning goal, practicing in an effective and targeted way, seeking and processing feedback, and using that feedback to check your progress and set new goals. Easy? Let’s dive into each step a little more to see what it entails.   Goal setting  means identifying things you want to do or achieve and generating a mental image of what achieving them can look like. In other words, you set yourself a ‘standard’ against which you can measure yourself. Setting your own goals makes you more motivated and committed to learn and better able to ‘self-regulate’ your learning – that is, evaluate your performance and learn from it. But it requires considerable self-understanding to really know what you want. And it is never easy to resolve the conflicts and trade-offs between the different things you aspire to, or to identify the best ways of achieving what you want. Effective practice  is like training for sports or music: designing activities that help you to improve your performance in a particular domain. It is clear that the more hours you spend on deliberate practice towards a particular learning goal, the more your performance will improve. Olympic athletes can train up to 5-7 hours a day, 6 days a week. Some probably even more. But this kind of training can also be applied to learning academic knowledge and skills, without aiming for the Olympics (or a Fields Medal)! Some regular deliberate practice can make a whole lot of difference for any learning goal you aspire to. Feedback is any information you receive about the quality of your performance, which you then have to process so you can use to improve it. Feedback can be explicit - think written comments in the margins of your essay - but also implicit - think of huge yawns from the audience when you are presenting. It can help you identify strengths and weaknesses in your development. It can also shed light on the efficacy of your chosen strategies or training regime. And maybe the feedback points to your complete mastery of your goal and push you to set new ones. But seeking, hearing, and processing feedback takes considerable skill, and be time-consuming to the point where you may decide just not to bother.   The key to meaningful, autonomous learning is not only to engage in the activities of the learning cycle. It is equally important that you do so regularly and make this type of reflection part of your habitual learning process. Our tools are designed to help students do just that: they are reminders to take a step back and set goals, practice, and use feedback to check back in with their goals and identify the right ways forward for them.

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