How to turbo-charge your students’ study success and satisfaction while reducing your workload
How to turbo-charge your students’ study success and satisfaction while reducing your workload

Empowered Attitude Choice is the short course that leaves your students feel empowered, motivated and excited to learn.

Attitudes have enormous influence on students’ study success and limiting attitudes can hold students back from reaching their full potential even in well designed learning environments – just like trying to drive a powerful car with a pulled handbrake. With the traditional approaches to teaching mindset failing to show success, the new Empowered Attitude Choice short course with its innovative approach could be the intervention you need to help your students to higher study success and your course to top ratings, especially among learners returning or new to online education. Click here for a shorter summary of the mindset intervention benefits or read on for the full success story.

While online learning offers enormous potential, especially in current times, many online courses leave students feeling resistant, lonely, anxious or lacking motivation. Resulting student dissatisfaction and drop-outs can lead to low ratings and recommendations for your course. In a recent article warns of the compound issues created by rushed online courses created during the pandemic offering little more than ‘videoconference lectures plus email’ risking to cause ‘never again’ reactions about online courses.

Attitudes Impact on Study Outcomes: a Recognised but Unexploited Driver for Success.

Fortunately, there is a simple lever you can use that will completely transform your students’ satisfaction, sense of belonging and motivation – even for students with no or previously negative online experiences:  Attitude.
Researchers have found a profound impact of attitudes on learning success. Let’s define attitudes as mostly subconscious pre-dispositions to act in a certain way. They are rooted in a combination of beliefs about a topic, with beliefs being the cognitive content we hold to be true. Such beliefs often take the form of rules a person has made up about life, others or yourself. For example: ‘I am good with technical things’, ‘I always make a fool of myself’ or ‘People are inherently good’, or maybe you believe the opposite. I am explicitly not referring to religious beliefs here.

Mindsets can be considered as the combination of beliefs that consequently shape perception and a pre-disposition to act in certain ‘set’ ways (hence the name mind-set). As such they ultimately influence behaviour.

When attitudes and their underlying beliefs are limiting towards learning, online studies and peer interaction can hold students back from reaching their full potential and enjoying maximum study success even in well designed learning environments. As such limiting attitudes could be likened to driving a powerful car with a pulled handbrake.

The impact of such beliefs on learning behaviour is often overlooked, although Bandura (1997) first emphasised the importance of efficacy beliefs in student success over 20 years ago. More recently, Schunk (2012) re-affirmed the importance of self-efficacy beliefs on student motivation, learning, self-regulation and achievement while transformational teaching theory stresses the importance of focusing on students’ attitudes for learning (Slavich and Zimbardo, 2012).  Carol Dweck’s (2008) popular work on growth mindset found empirical evidence amongst school children. Attempts by her followers to teach the growth mindset, however, showed disappointing results to date highlighting the need for a new approach.

How do attitudes and beliefs impact study success?

Attitudes and beliefs act like filters to what is perceived as ‘reality’ thereby defining available behavioural choices. To the individual beliefs or personal rules/generalisations about life appear as facts or truths but they are really subjective judgements based on experience or on influential messages from others. Their power lies in the way they shape perception of reality and judgement by acting like selective filters. Not only do they shape the way we view the world but also the way we see yourself and others, e.g. whether you see strangers as interesting or dangerous, whether you see yourself as a great team player or hopeless navigating online learning, whether you see asking questions in an online course as a risk or opportunity, as making you look dumb or making you look interested.

You can imagine the exponential difference an empowering attitude can make over a limiting one in just the course of a weeks, let alone months or years. This is simply put the difference between success and failure.

In short, beliefs define the behavioural choices we see and act on: if you only ‘see’ one option, that’s the one you are going to take, regardless how good it is. Beliefs can be either limiting or empowering.

You can imagine the exponential difference an empowering attitude can make over a limiting one in just the course of a weeks, let alone months or years. This is simply put the difference between success and failure.

What determines whether students hold limiting or empowering attitudes towards (online) learning?

Personal beliefs are mostly the result of childhood experiences and messages we received from parents, relatives and authoritative figures like teachers repeatedly. For example, they may have told you: You are clumsy or you’re just bad with numbers. We accepted those messages and then often never questioned them again. They became our truths. Later experiences in life will then have confirmed or modified or added to this belief system.

Applied to learning projects in particular, researchers found that the most important beliefs relate to the learning setting, one’s own abilities (also called self-efficacy beliefs) and beliefs about how much control you hold over impacting your learning outcome

Unfortunately, these attitudes predominantly live in people’s subconscious, making it difficult for people to even name or know their own attitudes, let alone influence them through interventions.  

Interventions: How can we help students adopt an empowering attitude for learning?

Clearly, it is in both students and educators’ interest to help everyone adopt the most powerful attitude for student learning success.

While attitudes clearly hold enormous potential for supporting students’ success, designing interventions that work seems to be a challenge. A multitude of interventions aiming to teach the growth mindset (Dweck, 2008) showed only mixed results, attracting wide-ranging criticism. Dweck herself admits that implementing a ‘growth mindset’ is more complex than she and her team imagined and that she had underestimated the challenges around creating interventions.
I see a two key reason for those disappointing results in the focus on (a) a ‘teaching approach’ to adopt (b) the supposedly ‘right’ attitude for learning. A teaching approach to propagating one prescribed mindset, however, has noticeable weaknesses. The power inequality can leave students in a role of passive receival, making them feel like there is something wrong with them. Moreover, teaching interventions often fail to acknowledge that the student already holds an unconscious (and possibly limiting) attitude even towards the intervention itself and that this attitude – unless scrutinised – might well conflict with the new teaching and create resistance. The most important shortcoming, however, is the attempt to teach the same supposedly ‘right’ attitude to all students, thereby ignoring students’ individual differences and prior experiences. You simply cannot force a one-size-fits-all attitude on somebody.

Yet, a powerful intervention that turbo-charges student learning through attitude intervention does exist and yields astonishing results every time. I invented it in 2016 and call it Empowered Attitude Choice. Instead of teaching the right attitude or mindset it empowers students to choose the most useful attitude for their learning journey ahead using a different approach.

As an international executive co-active coach, the answer leaped out at me: Empowered Attitude Choice by combining the psychology behind attitudes with empowering co-active coaching principles and methodology (Whitworth, 1998) thereby helping students make guided self-discoveries about their beliefs (Slavich and Zimbardo, 2012).

I pioneered the short 2 hour Empowered Attitude Choice intervention online course in 2016 in an online business master program with enormous success. Key principles included a) holding students as complete, whole and unbroken, b) creating active students, c) acknowledging their incoming attitudes, d) empowering students to choose their own best attitude for their learning journey, d) championing a diversity of different empowering attitudes for learning, championing individual differences.

Students needed to do more than just understand how impactful attitudes are for their learning success.  They needed to become empowered to choose their own most promising attitude – the essence of Empowered Attitude Choice.

Instead of a teaching approach, coaching or guided self-discovery was chosen to help students a) become aware of their subconscious attitude towards learning, b) understand and evaluate the power their attitude holds over themselves and then, c) consciously choose and commit to a new attitude. Supportive coaching/moderation of the activity is essential to provide accountability and an important amplifier (Bandura 1997).

In summary, to feel empowered and create intrinsic motivation, students have to take control of the process, acknowledge and work on individually different starting positions, evaluate the impact of their own attitude and then consciously choose and commit to  the one that they feel will serve them best on their learning journey/their own best choice, resulting in a myriad of different powerful attitudes for each students, rather than a one-size-fits-all recipe.

Following the successful pilot of Empowered Attitude Choice as part of the online student induction in a MSc programme at University of Limerick/Ireland in 2016, it has been successfully rolled out to other MSc and MBA programs as well as Management Development programs and short courses. Further expansions to other schools and programs are following and it is now publicly available for roll-out elsewhere. Empowered Attitude Choice can be implemented in new or existing induction programs or as part of a course in varying types of education. It holds particular potential for building self-efficacy among learners returning or new to online education and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

While staff praised the intervention as highly innovative, exceeding expectations and reducing student issues and their workload, qualitative student feedback from over 500 students expressed through forum entries and reflective journals suggests that the intervention is able to nurture intrinsic motivation and self-determination, specifically:

Making students feel more responsible for and in control of their learning

Turning apprehension about online learning and returning to education into positive excitement

Increasing students’ perceived self-efficacy

Developing respect for and empathy with other students’ behaviour

Increasing feeling of group cohesion, sense of belonging and social connnectedness

Typical Student Feedback:

‘Initially I was very apprehensive about my own ability to do this, particularly my technical abilities, or lack thereof I making my way around Moodle and conducting my online studies. The exercises have given me the confidence in myself and my ability and they have cemented for me that the choice to undertake this course was the right one for me’

‘I found this activity a hugely beneficial and enjoyable experience. I am realising I am in control of my own learning and I will stay open to new perspectives and opportunity for growth’

‘Feedback by the instructor Silke had immense value to provoke deeper thinking. What an eye-opener to be able to pinpoint and change the attitude that was secretly holding me back all along. Thank you!’

‘I now see true value I learning from the people around me. This activity was worth every minute.

Normally I would not give this area of thinking any thought. I am pessimistic in general but before I would not say it affects my mind set but after this presentation I have to re-evaluate’

‘This has given me that ‘feel-good’ feeling, to know that we are a group of open and helpful individuals will make this whole journey a lot easier and more enjoyable. All in all, a very insightful activity’

‘What a great way to kick off this new program, my attitude towards learning has significantly changed after completing the activity. I am taking responsibility for my own learning. I can do this.’

In summary, students feel empowered and motivated, greater group cohesion, ownership for their learning, self-efficacy and more positive about their online learning journey ahead.

If you would like to learn how to implement Empowered Attitude Choice or a version of such a program in your university, company or online learning platform, successfully guide students to choose and implement empowering attitude for themselves feel free to contact me for a consultation.