Faculty Mentor

Brooke Dolenc Nott


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Engaging in Growth Mindset through Photovoice

Research has demonstrated that children and adolescents with a growth mindset are likely to challenge themselves more often, persevere when they encounter difficulties, and have a higher level of academic achievement compared to those with a fixed mindset. A growth mindset is believing one can develop skills and talents, and this mindset leads to several positive youth outcomes (Dweck, 2019). A fixed mindset means believing that intelligence and talents are simply fixed traits, and this mindset can create barriers for youth because of believing they are not capable of accomplishing certain skills and goals. (Clear, 2018). However, research proves it is possible to transform fixed mindsets into growth mindsets.

A lack of empirical understanding on how youth articulate their understanding of growth mindsets as well as how the construct and mentoring might integrate exists. Therefore, the purpose of this research was to determine if and how mentoring could be used to increase growth mindsets in adolescents and to understand what a growth mindset means to adolescents in a mentoring context.

The present study used a type of participatory action research known as Photovoice to investigate these relationships. This method of research employs techniques that can capture data derived from youth perspectives, with the idea that these perspectives can provide details of existing problems that face youth. The objective of Photovoice is to support the self-empowerment of participants by providing them with an opportunity to express their experiences and “speak” through photographs about issues that challenge them, to connect with others in their community, and advocate for change. Photovoice engages those who do not usually have a say in the decisions that affect their daily lives, such as middle school students, as a way for them to deepen their understanding of an issue.

Because of Covid-19, we were unable to proceed with our research with the Talmadge Middle School and Western Oregon University Mentoring Program. However, using pilot study data, it was determined that youth saw the value of hard work to achieve a goal, as opposed to giving up, because the process was meaningful. Additionally, it was found that adults who do not listen or empathize with youths’ feelings were viewed as an obstacle to growth mindsets for youth.

The use of Photovoice in a mentoring context engages adolescents in power-sharing research, creating a sense of belonging and empowerment that their perspectives are being heard, evaluated and, represented. Mentors can help children feel confident in their skills due to the guidance provided in the development of a growth mindset. Mentors play a unique part in this development because they can guide adolescent students to cultivate skills. This is important because the adoption and integration of a growth mindset has been shown to improve emotional, social, relational, and psychological well-being in youth.




Psychological Sciences


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