Academic Mindset


The Tennessee Board of Regents seeks to understand the multiple noncognitive factors that play a role in student success. By broadening our understanding of the psycho-social factors related to student success and teaching, we can begin the conversation around developing classroom interventions and an implementation strategy changing the focus and the face of student success. Capturing the complexity of our multifaceted student body more effectively is a critical element in understanding how to best ensure a successful educational experience for students enrolled at TBR institutions.

The TBR's work on this initiative has leaned heavily on the works of David Yeager at the University of Texas at Austin and Carol Dweck at Stanford University. Yeager focuses on the development and understanding in students, how their social cognitions contribute to how they respond in different areas, and how to redirect negative beliefs into positive pathways.  Carol Dweck's work focuses on the why and how of failures and success and how to encourage a successful mindset. She has shown that it is possible to change students' mindsets in ways that leave a lasting impact on their academic careers. 


Tennessee HIPs and Mindset Project

Project Overview

In Summer 2023, TBR was awarded a $1.4 million grant from Ascendium Education Group to expand the High Impact Practice (HIP) and Academic Mindset initiatives. This 3-year grant extends through Spring 2026, and the work will be in collaboration with research partners at UVA's Motivate Lab.

High Impact Practices (HIPs) are evidence-based teaching and learning practices that have been widely tested and shown to be beneficial for college students, and learning mindsets are student's beliefs about themselves and their learning context. Both initiatives have proven results for supporting student success.

The HIPs and Mindset Project has 3 overarching goals:

  1. Improve the effectiveness of HIPs by embedding mindset-supportive practices into the existing HIPs structure. This will allow TBR to create a unified resource hub to streamline and scale both of these initiatives to reach more students at a faster rate, while reducing the lift for instructors who want to adopt these initiatives into their courses.
  2. Increase the total number of HIPs implemented across TBR, particularly HIPs with embedded mindset supports. This grant provides additional support for TBR's HIP Ambassador program as well as faculty training workshops with our Mindset experts at Motivate Lab.
  3. Make mindset-supportive practices and HIPs part of the fabric of academic pathways. The goal is to ensure all students have the opportunity to take at least 2 HIP courses, regardless of their degree program.

See the TBR Press Release announcing this grant. 


Tennessee Value Project

Project Overview

Funded through a National Science Foundation grant and in collaboration with the University of Virginia’s Motivate Lab, the Tennessee Value Project focuses on one important learning mindset: Value—the belief that there is a worthwhile reason for engaging in a task. In this project, students are introduced to activities that highlight the utility, or practical usefulness, of course content in community college math classrooms. Utility-value interventions are activities that help students identify connections between course content and their lives. These activities are designed to help students draw real-life connections between what they are learning in class and their lives outside of school. By helping students recognize the practical value of what they are learning, we hope to inspire greater interest in coursework and motivation to learn, leading to better outcomes for incoming students.

Purpose of the Project

The primary goal is to improve the engagement, academic achievement, retention, and progression of incoming students through introductory math courses. The project focuses on the intentional development of students' learning mindsets, which are individuals' beliefs about learning that shape how they interpret difficulty. These learning mindsets are critical predictors of students' performance and decisions to stay in college.


Student Voices Initiative

Project Overview

In collaboration with the University of Virginia’s Motivate Lab, TBR organized focus groups at five community colleges in Fall 2019 in order to learn more about the student experience. One goal of these focus groups was to inform institutions on how they can create environments that support student belonging. During Spring 2020, focus group protocols were transitioned to an online format to continue reaching students during the pandemic. 

Belonging is an important aspect of the college experience and is linked to critical academic outcomes (e.g., grades, retention). By implementing protocols designed to learn directly from students, we can identify which aspects of the college experience are most important for cultivating an adaptive sense of belonging. Identifying targeted areas for supporting belonging has the potential to help all students, and can be particularly powerful for students who are traditionally underrepresented in higher education and for students who worry about whether or not they fit in.

Why Sense of Belonging?

A primary objective of the Student Voices Initiative is to examine student belonging in order to improve student engagement and success. When students are unsure whether or not they belong at their school, they are more likely to disengage from classes and drop out at a higher rate. These focus groups are designed to encourage students to discuss what helps and hinders their belonging so that we can better support them in the future. Providing students with the space to share their perspectives and learning across institutions also provides a blueprint for sustaining discussions about belonging beyond the scope of this initiative alone. 


Grant Connections

The Tennessee Board of Regents would like to acknowledge and thank the Gates Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and Ascendium Education Group for their contributions to this initiative.


Interested in Learning More?

For more information about TBR's Academic Mindset work, please contact Emma Huelskoetter, TBR's Coordinator of Campus Mindset Interventions, at or 629-216-4084.