Author Identifiers

Fiona Boylan

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Education

First Advisor

Lennie Barblett

Second Advisor

Marianne Knaus


The research study investigated early childhood teacher perceptions of mindset theory and how teachers can be supported to incorporate the teaching of mindset theory in early childhood contexts. Teachers are pivotal in extending children’s passion for learning to help them aim high and pursue their goals. Substantial research has shown that students with a growth mindset are better positioned for success in learning and in life. The development of a growth mindset to support student learning is recommended as it leads to greater motivation, self-regulation and academic achievement to develop agile and confident 21st century learners. While the literature identifies the impact a growth mindset can have on learning in the upper primary and adolescent years, little is known about supporting early childhood teachers to develop a growth mindset in students in early childhood contexts.

This study addresses the need to support early childhood teachers to implement mindset theory to lay solid foundations for learning early in life. A sample of early childhood teachers’ perceptions of mindset was initially examined. Following this, a smaller group of teachers collaboratively developed a set of design principles to support teachers to foster a growth mindset in students in early childhood contexts. Drawing on a pragmatist theoretical framework, four phases of design-based research (Reeves, 2006) were conducted with early childhood teachers in one school in Western Australia. An online survey in Phase One initially gathered 95 early childhood teachers’ (K–2) perceptions of mindset theory through four closed early childhood teacher Facebook groups. The survey data informed the remaining phases of the research. One school in Western Australia was chosen for the remaining phases. Over two five-week iterations, six teachers of children aged 3.5 years to 6.5 years in early childhood classrooms designed, implemented, trialled, refined and evaluated a set of design principles. During the iterations, video reflection diaries, jottings, focus group discussions and a final evaluative survey were used to inform the development and refinement of the principles.

Results from Phase One of the study revealed that while early childhood teachers had some understanding of mindset theory and believed that it is an important factor for successful learning, most did not know how to include it in practice. Phases Two, Three and Four aimed to address the identified problem and findings indicated that early childhood teachers found the design principles highly effective and practical in implementing mindset theory in early childhood classrooms. This study offers theoretical and practical contributions to improve early childhood teacher knowledge and practice to assist young learners to develop a growth mindset. All six early childhood teachers indicated that their knowledge of mindset theory improved after developing and implementing the design principles. Additionally, teachers found that the principles were highly effective in providing crucial guidance on the teaching of mindset theory. This novel study was conducted from an educator’s perspective rather than through a psychological lens. It provides findings to develop early childhood teachers’ knowledge and practice of mindset theory in early childhood contexts and highlights the importance of mindset theory to inform strategic direction and policy development.

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Available for download on Saturday, November 30, 2024