Human beings are born to be learners and doers. People are naturally curious. Motivation is the psychological process that propels learning; its function is to mobilize the brain to engage in learning and development. When people’s basic physiological needs are satisfied, motivation is a critical driver of how much, and how deeply people learn.

This natural desire to learn is nurtured when a few core psychological needs are met. People need to feel competent. They need to feel connected to others. They need to feel capable of expressing their authentic self and taking action.

Our new research synthesis, written by Executive Director Lisa Quay, describes how insights from mindset science can optimize the design of educational environments in K-12 and postsecondary settings. It explains how students’ psychological experience of school shapes their motivation to learn and their learning outcomes. The brief distills principles from 40 years of research on mindsets and motivation that describe how learning environments can be designed to be inclusive, growth-oriented, and meaningful.

In addition to producing our research synthesis, the Mindset Scholars Network launched an interdisciplinary initiative in Fall 2016 to explore how learning environments shape the mindsets students develop about learning and school. The initiative’s aim is to rapidly generate scientific evidence about how educators at all levels can convey messages to students that they can grow their ability, that they belong and are valued at school, and that what they are doing in school matters. Thanks to funding from the Raikes Foundation, Overdeck Family Foundation, and the Joyce Foundation, we launched eight research projects that involve 17 Network scholars and a dozen external collaborators.

Check out our recent blog posts to learn more about several of the funded projects:


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