The relationship between mindset and academic achievement at university: A quantitative study of South African students


Mashudu Mokhithi, Anita L. Campbell, Jonathan P. Shock


22 December 2020


The majority of studies investigating the social psychology theory of growth and fixed mindsets have taken place in primary and secondary schools outside of Africa. In this study, we investigate the effects of mindset on first-year students’ academic achievement at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. The Theories of Intelligence Scale (TIS) questionnaire was used to measure students’ mindsets across three first-year courses and the period of several mathematics tests. Both the effect on students’ progress across tests and between different courses was studied with respect to mindset. Statistical analysis showed that students in science and engineering programs had higher mindset scores than commerce students. Mindset scores did not significantly predict engineering students’ performance in an introductory calculus course. The results of this study will guide future research into the effect of non-cognitive factors such as mindsets on the academic achievement of engineering students.