Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Ben Rafoth, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Dana Lynn Driscoll, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Sharon Deckert, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Kurt Schick, Ph.D.


In this dissertation, the author investigates the efficacy of an embedded tutoring intervention designed to improve students’ mindsets and writing performance. The dissertation uses Dweck’s (2006) mindset theory as a theoretical framework to understand how students’ beliefs concerning the malleability of their writing abilities affect them as writers. By using a replicable, aggregable, data-supported (RAD) research design, the author investigates the degree to which engineering students’ mindsets changed over the course of a semester, the extent to which an embedded tutor influenced students’ mindsets and writing, and the impact of students’ mindsets on their writing processes and performance. The study’s mixed methods include surveys, interviews, and writing assessment. The results showed that students who received the embedded tutoring intervention improved their mindsets more significantly than students in the control and comparison groups. In addition to becoming more growth-minded, these students’ final drafts were also significantly better in terms of organization, style, and mechanics.

The dissertation contributes to writing center scholarship by providing further evidence of tutoring efficacy, and the dissertation extends mindset literature in psychology. By describing growth-minded writers’ experiences and practices, the study confirms Dweck’s findings about growth-minded students’ beliefs in the power of effort, their positive response to failure and criticism, and their commitment to learning. Importantly, the dissertation describes salient traits of growth-minded writers but demonstrates that students may not exhibit all traits and may even display growth- and fixed-minded traits simultaneously. These findings suggest that writing mindsets have more fluidity than is currently described in the mindset literature.

Available for download on Thursday, February 06, 2020

Included in

Rhetoric Commons