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A Mixed-Methods Investigation of Mindset, Grit, Optimism, and Self-Determination in Adolescents with Learning Disabilities and Differences

Elizabeth D. Tuckwiller, William R. Dardick, Elisabeth L. Kutscher


The purpose of this mixed methodology study was to empirically investigate how adolescents with learning disabilities/ differences report and experience self-determination, grit, mindset, and optimism. Using items from established scales, we gathered survey data (n=27) as well as interview data (n=23), and examined the ability of mindset, grit, and optimism to predict self-determination, as well as evidence of construct overlap in the thoughts and reflections of adolescents with learning disabilities/differences. The results of the regression indicated that a significant portion of the variance of self-determination, approximately 65%, was explained by the predictors (R2 = 0.65, F(4, 22)=10.01, p <.001). Analysis of data from interviews, during which students were asked to reflect on their experiences of mindset and optimism, suggested that adolescents with learning disabilities/differences are engaging in the self-determination process in their daily lives in ways that deeply incorporate mindset and optimism orientations. Although we did not specifically interview students about self-determination, their reported thoughts and experiences about mindset and optimism included the three components and six steps outlined by the self-determined learning theory, providing additional evidence of the overlap of mindset, grit and optimism with the self-determination construct. Results are discussed in regard to future research and intervention development. 

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Grit; learning disabilities; mindset; mixed methods; optimism; regression; self-determination

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