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Situating Resilience, Grit and Growth Mindset as Constructs of Social Presence in the Fully Online Learning Community Model (FOLC)

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Current research has indicated that resilience, grit and growth mindset are psychological characteristics beneficial to learning (Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews & Kelly, 2007; Kamtsios & Karagiannopoulou, 2012; Yeager & Dweck, 2012). This paper addresses a significant gap in the literature, that being that little research has connected the concepts of resilience, grit and growth mindset to online learners, and to elements specific to the online learning environment. Dweck (2008; 2015) discusses the difference between fixed and growth mindsets, and indicates how a growth mindset can help students persevere and develop grit in the face of challenge and adversity. She reveals that the difference between a fixed and growth perspective lies in whether the individual believes that his/her intellectual ability is static and fixed, or whether it can grow and change. The perspective held by the learner is a key factor and has "profound effects on their motivation, learning and school achievement" (Dweck, 2015, p. 49). The authors attest that this tenacity appears even more important for students in digital environments, and that the development of social presence, while allowing for self-directed and student-centred pedagogical approaches, can have a direct impact on academic success and attrition rates. Using a theoretical framework based on the Fully Online Learning Community Model (FOLC) (vanOostveen et al, 2016), the authors address how social presence, as evidenced by collaborative work in problem-based learning environments, can facilitate the development of resilience, grit and growth mindset in individuals and in communities. We argue that the factors contributing to the development of these learner characteristics emerge through social interaction, collaboration, and a strong social interactive presence amongst members of the community. As a result, the deliberate cultivation of an online learning space that allows for learners to fail within a socially supportive network, can begin to build resilience, grit and growth mindset, and also address issues of attrition in online learning situations. Hochanadel and Finamore (2015) indicate, "students must develop those psychological qualities of grit and tenacity and internalize a mindset that includes persevering, and universities are in a position to help" (p. 49). This paper provides an overview of the connections between, resilience, grit and growth mindset as they relate to online learning in the FOLC.
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Situating Resilience, Grit and Growth Mindset as Constructs of Social Presence in the Fully Online
Learning Community Model (FOLC)
W. Barber
R. van Oostveen
Ontario Tech University, Oshawa, Canada
Wendy.barber@uoit.ca
Roland.vanoostveen@uoit.ca
E. Childs
Royal Roads University, Victoria, Canada
Elizabeth.childs@royalroads.ca
Abstract: Current research has indicated that resilience, grit and growth mindset are psychological
characteristics beneficial to learning (Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews & Kelly, 2007; Kamtsios &
Karagiannopoulou, 2012; Yeager & Dweck, 2012). This paper addresses a significant gap in the literature,
that being that little research has connected the concepts of resilience, grit and growth mindset to online
learners, and to elements specific to the online learning environment. Dweck (2008; 2015) discusses the
difference between fixed and growth mindsets, and indicates how a growth mindset can help students
persevere and develop grit in the face of challenge and adversity. She reveals that the difference between
a fixed and growth perspective lies in whether the individual believes that his/her intellectual ability is
static and fixed, or whether it can grow and change. The perspective held by the learner is a key factor and
has “profound effects on their motivation, learning and school achievement” (Dweck, 2015, p. 49). The
authors attest that this tenacity appears to be even more important for students in digital environments,
and that the development of social and cognitive presence, while allowing for self-directed and student-
centred pedagogical approaches, can have a direct impact on academic success and attrition rates.
Using a theoretical framework based on the Fully Online Learning Community Model (FOLC) (vanOostveen
et al, 2016), the authors address how social and cognitive presence, as evidenced by collaborative work in
problem-based learning environments, can facilitate the development of resilience, grit and growth
mindset in individuals and in communities. We argue that the factors contributing to the development of
these learner characteristics emerge through social interaction, collaboration, and a strong social
interactive presence amongst members of the community. As a result, the deliberate cultivation of an
online learning space that allows for learners to fail within a socially supportive network, can begin to build
resilience, grit and growth mindset, and also address issues of attrition in online learning situations.
Hochanadel and Finamore (2015) indicate, “students must develop those psychological qualities of grit and
tenacity and internalize a mindset that includes persevering, and universities are in a position to help” (p.
49). This paper provides an overview of the connections between, resilience, grit and growth mindset as
they relate to online learning in the FOLC.
Keywords: Resilience, Grit, Growth Mindset, Online Learning
1. Introduction
The growth of online learning and the ensuing environmental shift in education to include digital learning
platforms has caused educators to look closely at the way students experience and create learning
opportunities (Weegar & Pacis, 2012). The fourth industrial revolution, complete with its infusion of
technology, is blurring the lines between the physical and digital realms of education and, as such,
educational researchers have been compelled to examine the technological and human characteristics of
online learning, which contribute to the pedagogical effectiveness of online learning environments
(Weegar & Pacis, 2012).
While online learning is readily accessible in diverse digital platforms, allowing students to study at their
own pace and on their own time (Blackmon & Major, 2012), pressures placed on adult online learners are
compounding as students often juggle their education with commitments such as family, full-time
employment and work deadlines (Blackmon & Major, 2012). Smart and Cappel (2006) found online
learning brought with it time pressures for completing modules, and provided inadequate opportunity for
human interaction, a factor deemed necessary for establishing peer support and developing in-depth
group discussions on subject matter. Other pressures were identified including learner motivation, time
management, comfort level with online technologies, as well as technical problems, a perceived lack of
sense of community, time constraints, and difficulties understanding online course objectives (Hassenburg,
2009; Song, Singleton, Hill & Koh, 2004).
In order to address these issues, the authors argue that building resilience in online learners, and in online
learning communities, can be a potent antidote to issues of attrition. Current research has indicated that
hardiness, resilience, grit and growth mindset are psychological constructs beneficial to learning
(Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews & Kelly, 2007; Kamtsios & Karagiannopoulou, 2012; Yeager & Dweck,
2012). Furthermore, success in online learning, which may involve a combination of factors such as
attrition rate, development of online community and significant psychological constructs of individual
learners, may be mediated by various concepts related to the characteristics of individual learners, how
they approach the online learning experience, and how they deal with emerging problems and challenges
in digital learning environments.
Beyond individual learning, this paper situates these concepts of resilience and grit within a Fully Online
Learning Community (FOLC) model. The authors postulate that the support and challenge offered by
acquiring a sense of belonging to an online community can begin to address issues of perceived isolation or
attrition in online learners, and that the FOLC model can provide an environment that facilitates academic
success for online learners.
2. Definitions of Resilience, Grit and Growth Mindset
Numerous authors have described the concepts of resilience, grit, and hardiness, and distinctions among
the terms are as follows. Yeager and Dweck (2012) refer to resilience as “any behavioural, attributional, or
emotional response to an academic or social challenge that is positive and beneficial for development,
such as seeking new strategies, putting forth greater effort, or solving conflicts peacefully” (p. 303). They
refer to non-resilient behaviours as those that result in a negative response to a challenge, and not
beneficial, such as quitting, cheating, or ineffective aggression or retaliation. Seligman (2013) refers to
resilience as “optimism, appraising situations without distorting them, thinking about changes that are
possible to make, and bouncing back from adversity, cognitive or otherwise” (Seligman, 2013, in Perkins-
Gough, 2013, p. 1.) Grit can be defined as having the perseverance and passion for long term goals
(Bashant, 2014; Duckworth, Quinn, & Seligman, 2009), and maintaining “a definite goal which will not be
given up no matter how stressful things get” (Maddi, Matthews, Kelly, Villarreal, Gundersen, & Savino,
2017, p. 356).
Dweck (2008, 2015) discusses the difference between fixed and growth mindsets and indicates how the
latter can help students persevere and develop grit in the face of challenge and adversity. She reveals that
much of the difference between these orientation lies in the belief that their intellectual ability is not static
but that it can grow and change. The perspective held by the learner is a key factor and has “profound
effects on their motivation, learning and school achievement” (Dweck, 2015, p. 49). Dweck believes that
a growth mindset can be taught to faculty, students and parents. Growth mindset is
changing a student’s thinking that intelligence level is not a fixed number and can change.
Grit in education is how one can achieve long-term goals by overcoming obstacles and
challenges. Duckworth and Dweck collaborated, conducting studies to determine how a
fixed belief that failure is permanent could prevent students from achieving academic
success. (Hochanadel & Finamore, 2015, p. 49)
Further to this, Yeager and Dweck (2012) shape their theories of how students approach learning as either
an entity approach or an incremental approach. In the entity theory, students see themselves in a more
static way, approaching ability as defined and distinctly measurable, based on a performance or result on a
discreet task, often measured by a test or exam at a specific time and date set by the instructor. In
addition, when learning situations are framed in an entity approach the learner’s response to adversity is
not seen as an opportunity for change and growth. In contrast, the incremental theory views learners as
responsive and persistent, using effort as a response to challenges and threats, thereby seeing obstacles,
feedback and criticism as a way to improve and continue working at problems. Online learning can present
numerous challenges, technically, cognitively, socially or emotionally, and an incremental approach to
digital learning can empower students to take a more growth-centred mindset.
The challenge facing educators in online environments is this: how can we facilitate and create learning
environments that address issues of learner resilience, grit, and a growth mindset, and what types of
pedagogical strategies can facilitate the development of these psychological constructs online, in
individuals and in communities. We argue that a FOLC model, based on concepts of Problem-Based
Learning, is an ideal format within which learner resilience, grit and growth mindset can be cultivated.
3. Overview of the FOLC model
In general, the FOLC Model integrates elements of more foundational theories guiding practice in distance
and online education, including the Theory of Transactional Distance (TTD) (Moore, 1993) and the
Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000). The CoI framework, in
particular, recognizes three presences essential to supporting distance education: Social Presence,
Teaching Presence, and Cognitive Presence.
Figure 1: Fully Online Learning Community Model (FOLC) (Van Oostveen et al, 2016)
Lin and Lee (2006) state that “the online community can be defined as a social relationship aggregation,
facilitated by internet-based technology, in which users communicate and build personal relationships (p.
480). Wenger and Synder (2000) believe that “online communities facilitate virtual collaboration among
community members with the potential of transforming the activities of off-line into an online context” (in
Lin & Lee, 2000, p. 480). While this social element of online learning remains a predominant challenge to
educators, effective online pedagogy relies on how skilled the instructor is at developing and sustaining a
sense of belonging to the digital community. By combining problem-based learning and a strong sense of
community, educators can become adept at helping students become independent autonomous learners
who are capable of solving the complex problems facing 4th Industrial Revolution learners. Instead of taking
the power role normally assumed by the teacher, instructors become equal members of the community,
bringing unique strengths and learning needs themselves. In this way, instructors blend into the
community, become one with the background. By being present on a level playing field with students, the
teacher’s role in the community disappears, and reappears as something completely different – as
facilitator, lurker, guide and co-learner.
It is clear that the development of social capital can be a key element for creating a sense of belonging, a
safe and challenging learning environment wherein feedback from a critical other enriches the learning
experience. Students are challenged to select and collaboratively solve problems. Kearney et al (2012)
attest that learning “is a situated social endeavor” (p. 1). In our work we find that within the FOLC model,
students invest a great deal of time in developing social networks within their courses, many indicate that
they also create a LinkedIn or Facebook group to supplement their contact with peers, following Twitter
feeds on their mobile devices outside of scheduled class time. Kearney et al (2012) reiterate that “this
socio-cultural view of learning takes into consideration both technical characteristics as well as social and
personal learning processes” (p. 2). LittleJohn, Beetham and McGill (2012) agree that the social elements of
learning are being embraced by students, and that “learners are responding to the new technical and social
opportunities with little help from the formal education system” (p. 551).
The pedagogical strategies that underpin the implementation of the FOLC model provide insight into how
this FOLC environment can facilitate the development of resilience, grit and growth mindset. By creating a
strong social presence and cognitive presence, learners are encouraged to take risks, and thereby have
opportunities to strengthen resilience. A Problem-Based Learning (PBL) environment aligns closely with
Dweck’s (2015) ideals of growth mindset, and Yeager and Dweck’s incremental learning theory (2012),
since it allows for learners to question previously held notions about overcoming challenges and obstacles,
to struggle collaboratively, produce diverse solutions, and create new ways to address learning challenges
(vanOostveen, et al., 2016).
4. Role of PBL in Developing Resilience, Grit and Growth Mindset
The pedagogical foundation upon which the FOLC model rest is that of problem-based learning. We believe
that this orientation, towards a learner-centred and problem-centred approach, allows a social
constructivist approach to learning, wherein resilience, grit and growth mindset are cultivated. Savin-
Baden (2007) states that there are several key features of problem-based learning, including 1. A focus on
complex real-world situations that have no one ‘right’ answer; 2. Students work in teams to confront the
problem, to identify learning gaps, and to develop viable solutions; 3. Students gain new information
through self-directed learning; 4. Instructors act as facilitators; 5. Problems lead to the development of
clinical problem-solving capabilities.
As McNeill, Gosper and Xu (2012) state, “universities increasingly acknowledge the value of skills such as
problem solving, critical thinking and creativity, yet the curriculum needs to be designed to support and
scaffold development of these skills. (2012, p. 283). We argue that educators must move beyond the
curriculum, and create environments within which students choose the curricula they need to solve the
complex problems they find/create, as such, they need to be creative problem-finders as well as problem-
solvers, willing to readily accept failure, and develop a growth mindset and the resilience to persevere.
McNeill, Gosper and Xu (2012) go on to state that “academics who were likely to introduce the
development of student creativity in their curriculum found that confidence emerged as a key
characteristic” (2012, p. 284). Students in these PBL/FOLC environments develop skills in collaboration, the
ability to come to a variety of workable and diverse solutions, and they also acknowledge that each
member of the community, while possessing different skills, has an important and valuable place in the
group. These are critical skills for anyone working in the knowledge economy. LittleJohn, Beetham and
McGill (2012) indicate that the nature of the workplace has changed, and digital forms of information are
changing the meaning of what it means to work. They state that these changes are being exacerbated by
three factors
First, workplaces are being transformed such that production and practice are
increasingly knowledge driven. Second, work problems are becoming more complex and
third, people are regularly and repeatedly transitioning into new roles and careers,
necessitating life-long learning. (2012, p.547)
Clearly, a problem-based learning approach allows learners to select the problems they choose to solve, to
collaborate together, to co-design learning tasks, and to come up with diverse and creative solutions. As
the nature of work continues to change, higher education in digital contexts must also move pedagogy
towards more student-centred, problem-based approaches, in order to prepare them for the real world of
work and life beyond the digital classroom. In fact, it is the challenge, critical feedback and measured
adversity that are inherent in the FOLC model that create environments within which online learners can
develop resilience, grit and growth mindsets. Yeager and Dweck concur that “what students need most is
not self-esteem boosting or trait labelling; instead, they need mindsets that represent challenges as things
that they can take on and overcome over time with effort, new strategies, learning, help from others, and
patience” (2012, p. 312).
5. Conclusions
It is clear that there is a significant gap in the literature involving grit, growth mindset, resilience and
hardiness as they pertain to online learners and digital learning environments. Building resilience, grit and
growth mindset are essential components of learning environments that promote the development of
academic success in online communities. In fact, students need these qualities and characteristics to
function and learn in a digital world. This is what Littlejohn, Beetham and McGill (2011) refer to as “the
capabilities required to thrive, in and beyond education, in an age when digital forms of information and
communication predominate” (p. 547). Kaufman concurs that “school is not simply about tests and
‘checking boxes’ of topics and assignments. Rather, schools today should have a mission of developing
students as individuals and igniting their creativity” (2013, p. 79). Voogt et al (2013) also attest that it is
generally agreed upon that “collaboration, communication, digital literacy, citizenship, problem-solving,
critical thinking, creativity and productivity are essential for living in and contributing to our present
societies” (p. 404).
While research on grit and resilience in online learning is in its infancy, this paper raises issues about how
the development of resilience and grit in online learners, as situated within the FOLC model, can have a
significant effect on attrition and academic success in digital environments.
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... Although the literature surrounding grit and autonomous learning is limited, much of the work relating these constructs involves the online educational environment. However, Aparicio et al. (2017) and Barber et al. (2019) further contend that this study base is also lacking. Within certain educational settings, students must possess different levels of responsibility and control in their autonomy of learning and the online environment is no exception. ...
... Within certain educational settings, students must possess different levels of responsibility and control in their autonomy of learning and the online environment is no exception. In their study of the SALAZAR AND MEADOR | 3 current literature, Barber et al. (2019) indicated that no validated or reliable tools existed to measure grit and the resilience of students in online settings. In an attempt to fill the gaps in the literature, Aparicio et al. (2017) developed a theoretical model to study the impact of grit on e-learning success. ...
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... ) (Maddi, 2002;2004;2006;Maddi et al, 2011) (Kamtsios & Karagiannopoulou, 2013a) (Wang & Tsai, 2016) Benishek & Lopez (2001) (Maddi, 2005;2006;Wang & Tsai, 2016;Mund, 2017) (Benishek & Lopez, 2001;Benishek et al., 2005;Luan et al., 2021) (Kamtsios & Karagiannopoulou, 2013a) (Maddi, 2006;Maddi et al., 2011;Maddi, 2014) (Benishek & Lopez, 2001) (Benishek et al., 2005) (Kamtsios & Karagiannopoulou, 2013b) (Karagiannopoulou & Kamtsios, 2016) (Maddi, 2005;2006) (Wang & Tsai, 2016;Mund, 2017) (Benishek & Lopez, 2001;Benishek et al., 2005;Luan et al., 2021) (Maddi, 2006;Maddi et al., 2011;Maddi, 2014) (Benishek et al., 2005;Kamtsios & Karagiannopoulou, 2013a) (Maddi, 2005;2006;Maddi et al., 2011;Maddi, 2014) (Wang & Tsai, 2016;Mund, 2017) (Benishek & Lopez, 2001;Benishek et al., 2005) Control effort Control affect (Luan et al., 2021) (Benishek et al., 2005) (Kern et al., 2015;Tseng et al., 2020;Buenconsejo& Datu, 2020;King& Trinidad, 2021) ‫السابع‬ ‫الفرض‬ : (Warren et al., 2019;Barber et al., 2019;Cavallo, 2020;Tan et al., 2020;Liu et al., 2020;Tseng et al., 2020;Deng et al., 2021;Jiang& Papi, 2021;Luan et al., 2021) Tan The present study investigates the Contributions of Regulatory Focus (promotion -prevention), Academic Hardiness (commitment-challengecontrol) and Implicit Intelligence (Entity self-beliefs -incremental self-beliefs) in Online learning engagement, as well as investigate the relationship between the independent variables. The final sample consisted of (339) third year Faculty of Education students, University of Benha enrolled in academic year (2021/ 2022), the results indicated that: ...
... . (Warren et al., 2019;Barber et al., 2019;Cavallo, 2020;Tan et al., 2020;Liu et al., 2020;Świątkowski& Dompnier, 2020;Tseng et al., 2020;Deng et al., 2021;Jiang& Papi, 2021;Luan et al., (Kern et al., 2015;Tseng et al., 2020;Buenconsejo& Datu, 2020;King& Trinidad, 2021) ...
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هدف البحث إلى دراسة مدى إسهام التركيز التنظيمي (التحسين- الوقاية) والصلابة الأكاديمية (الالتزام- التحدي- التحكم) و الذكاء الضمني (المعتقدات الذاتية الثابتة- المعتقدات الذاتية النامية) في الاندماج في التعلم الإلكتروني، فضلًا عن دراسة العلاقات الارتباطية بين المتغيرات المستقلة لدى عينة بلغ عددها (339) طالبًا وطالبةً من الطلاب المقيدين بالفرقة الثالثة عام بكلية التربية- جامعة بنها، والمقيدين خلال العام الجامعي (2021/ 2022)، وبعد تطبيق أدوات الدراسة ومعالجة البيانات إحصائيًا أشارت النتائج إلى: توجد علاقة ارتباطية موجبة دالة إحصائيًا عند مستوى (0.01) بين بُعدي التركيز التنظيمي (التحسين- الوقاية) وأبعاد الصلابة الإكاديمية (الالتزام- التحدي- التحكم)، توجد علاقة ارتباطية سالبة دالة إحصائيًا بين بُعدي التركيز التنظيمي (التحسين- الوقاية) وبُعد المعتقدات الذاتية الثابتة، توجد علاقة ارتباطية موجبة دالة إحصائيًا عند مستوى (0.01) بين بُعدي التركيز التنظيمي (التحسين- الوقاية) وبعد المعتقدات الذاتية النامية، وتوجد علاقة ارتباطية موجبة دالة إحصائيًا عند مستوى (0.01) بين بُعد المعتقدات الذاتية النامية وأبعاد الصلابة الأكاديمية (الالتزام- التحدي- التحكم)، وعلاقة ارتباطية سالبة دالة إحصائيًا عند مستوى (0.01) بين بًعد معتقدات الثبات وبُعد التحكم، فضلًا عن إسهام الأبعاد الثلاثة (تركيز التحسن- الالتزام- المعتقدات الذاتية النامية) في التنبؤ بالاندماج في التعلم الإلكتروني.
... Another frequently mentioned technology is LMS (Alafouzou et al., 2018;Kotsifakos et al., 2018;Naidoo and Naidoo, 2015;Ørngreen et al., 2019;O'Sullivan and Krewer, 2015), which is often addressed from a design-based approach, e.g. the design of an online course integrating gamified elements in the LMS (Alafouzou et al., 2018) or the design of a new PBL-LMS that facilitates instructors in structuring projects (O'Sullivan and Krewer, 2015). Other online platforms include video conference systems (Dau and Rask, 2017;Ørngreen and Mouritzen, 2013), web-based platform for supervisor competence development (Gnaur and Hüttel, 2018), and more generally digital learning environments (Andersen et al., 2021;Barber et al., 2019). ...
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... Another potential area of research is the extent to which the principles of TITL support and build on one another. We may find, as in the FOLC model, that specific pedagogies and collections of practices are more powerful as a whole (Barber, van Oostveen, & Childs, 2019;Blayone et al., 2016) and programs that embrace all aspects of TITL will have greater success. While we encourage future research, we cannot ignore the value it currently brings to our teaching. ...
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Online teaching platforms have been a technological resource available to university teachers for well over a decade. The extent of take-up by university teachers had, however, been uneven—until COVID-19 made face-to-face teaching unviable. A proliferation of rapid-fire university staff development courses ensued, to fast-track competence to teach online, without due cognizance of the impediments that students in developing contexts like South Africa would have to navigate. Access to synchronous sessions presents particular teaching and learning challenges. Arguably the most exigent aspect of the pedagogic process is the extent to which teaching and assessment practices might sustain the same level of student cognitive competence development in the online space. As such, university academics were likely to experience dissonance as ‘new’ learners (of online pedagogy) and ‘new’ teachers (using online pedagogy). As a higher education pedagogue, I reflect on my particular struggles in moving to online teaching and assessment practice. Methodologically, I engage the tenets of self-study research to portray the dilemmas and cognitive dissonance I experienced in aspiring towards pedagogic communicative competence in the digital space. I reflect on how I employ synchronous and asynchronous teaching using video-conferencing tools, and the necessity of undergirding such online teaching and assessment with fundamental pedagogic/educational principles. I argue that the online pedagogy is likely to be successful if pedagogues are consciously alert to teaching and learning theory that undergirds online teaching, to ensure that online learning platforms like Moodle move beyond its predominantly repository-like function.
... Another potential area of research is the extent to which the principles of TITL support and build on one another. We may find, as in the FOLC model, that specific pedagogies and collections of practices are more powerful as a whole (Barber, van Oostveen, & Childs, 2019;Blayone et al., 2016) and programs that embrace all aspects of TITL will have greater success. While we encourage future research, we cannot ignore the value it currently brings to our teaching. ...
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