The why of university for students: Motivational mindsets and guided reflection on life goals

Research output: Types of ThesisDoctoral ThesisInternal

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The first year of studying is crucial for students’ study career and an online personal goal-setting intervention has proven effective in boosting students’ first-year study success. The psychological processes that drive the positive effects of guided reflection on life goals have, however, so far remained elusive. The central aim of this dissertation was to understand the mechanism of change underlying the goal-setting intervention. To achieve this aim, four exploratory studies have been conducted. In the first study, a new student-centered, multidimensional perspective of students’ motives for studying was developed: the motivational mindset model (MMM). The MMM contains four types of motivational mindsets: high-impact mindset, low-impact mindset, social-impact mindset, and self-impact mindset. The second study showed that these motivational mindsets differ meaningfully in sense of purpose and study engagement, two important dimensions of wellbeing and predictors of study success. In the third study, more than half of students indicated to have changed their mindset over the course of the first year which implies a plasticity of the motivational mindset. Across the four mindsets, students with a stable mindset performed equally well. However, students with a low-impact mindset at follow-up were more likely to drop out of the first academic year compared to the other three mindsets. Studies three and four revealed that low-impact mindset students benefit most from the goal-setting intervention in terms of an increased sense of purpose, buffered study engagement, and a change to the social-impact mindset. This subgroup-specific mechanism of change underlying the goal-setting intervention provides important groundwork on which future studies can build. Overall, this dissertation contributes to a better understanding of student differences in motivation, wellbeing, and study success in higher education. This dissertation also contributes to a better understanding for whom, why and when the goal-setting intervention works, which is useful for higher education institutions as well as secondary schools to help more students succeed in their studies and foster their wellbeing and sense of purpose in life.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Erasmus University Rotterdam
  • Smeets, Guus, Supervisor
  • Schippers, Michaéla, Supervisor
  • Scheepers, Ad, Co-supervisor
Award date14 Dec 2023
Place of PublicationRotterdam
Print ISBNs978-94-6483-368-3
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2023

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