Date of Award

8-2018

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

English

First Advisor

Dr. Jonathan Bush

Second Advisor

Dr. Karen Vocke

Third Advisor

Dr. Allen Webb

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Kia Jane Richmond

Abstract

This dissertation offers four in-depth, vivid profiles of twelfth grade writers and the ways in which writing mindsets impact self-beliefs and inform the writing process. The multiple case study explores the impact of a mindset pedagogy, which is defined as an instructional paradigm that emphasizes the malleable nature of writing, as an ability that can be developed with effort, learning, and dedication over time. This belief contrasts the notion that writing ability is fixed trait that cannot be significantly developed over time.

Derived from Dweck's mindset theory, my dissertation argues for a discipline-specific construct of the "writing mindset,” which refers to students’ beliefs about the nature of writing. This dissertation joins a vibrant discussion about how student beliefs are linked to efficacy, motivation, grit, hope, and academic achievement. It also offers new understandings which may be fundamental for advancing both practice and theory in English Education. Students can be taught how to develop and apply writing strategies, but they must believe writing ability is malleable in order to exert the necessary effort and be truly invested in the learning process.

Data was collected from four student participants through multiple individual interviews, surveys, and writing samples as the twelfth-grade teacher Mr. J. implemented a mindset intervention during the College English course. The data revealed significant changes in the students’ beliefs about writing, including: the malleability of writing ability, the value of failure, and the impact of effort.

I argue that these new understandings about writing led to greater growth mindset thinking for all four case study participants. As they came to understand that it is within their control to grow as writers, the students found greater value in drafting and revision during the writing process. When encountering challenges within their writing, they were able to utilize growth mindset thinking, which recognizes that our abilities are being cultivated through effort, support and failure. This perspective increased the students’ confidence, as well as their willingness to take risks and seek out feedback from others.

Finally, I suggest that teachers can use a growth mindset lens to reevaluate and revise their teaching practices and feedback language to intentionally promote effort and growth, rather than reinforce fixed beliefs about writing. Mindset interventions can provide students with a strategic way of thinking and overcoming the obstacles in their writing process.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

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