Roger Powell

Date of Award

Summer 8-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dana Lynn Driscoll, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Mary Stewart, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Laurel Black, Ph.D.


This dissertation has five interrelated purposes: 1. To understand individual teacher and student mindsets in three first-year composition courses at one university, 2. to learn how teachers with certain mindsets preferred to comment on student writing, the purpose of their commenting, and what they viewed as shaping their comments, 3. to examine comments that individual teachers with these mindsets give on student writing on one particular assignment in a specific class, 4. to explore what kinds of comments students with certain mindsets preferred on their writing, and 5. to examine how individual students with these mindsets process and apply teacher comments in revision with one assignment in one class. To fulfill these purposes, it draws upon case studies of three teachers’ comments on student writing and three students’ processing and application of those comments.

Results indicated that teacher and student mindsets were along a continuum from very growth to very fixed and that participants had moments of both mindsets depending on context. Furthermore, all teachers agreed that the purpose of their comments was to help students become better writers and that what shaped their comments was a complex interplay between their mindsets, their students’ mindsets, and their identity. All students saw the purpose of comments as a way to improve their writing. Lastly, the teacher that often displayed a fixed mindset gave comments that had several purposes: advising/suggesting, editing, and problem identification. The teachers that often had very growth mindsets had comments with the following purposes: advising/suggesting, questioning, problem identification, praise, and editing. All students processed and applied comments in ways that sometimes appeared to be through a growth mindset perspective and other times through a fixed mindset perspective.

The results of this dissertation confirm and extend research on responding to student writing and dispositions in composition studies and mindsets research in educational psychology. They also suggest key pedagogical implications: mindsets in composition teacher training, continual dialogue about student mindsets, and considering fixed mindsets and how to succeed. Lastly, this dissertation suggests implications for several future research studies such as: continuing to find methodologies that account for fluid, contextual, and individual nature of mindsets, considering the longitudinal implications of mindsets and response, thinking about mindsets, response, and transfer, and lastly, considering how other factors, such as identity, previous experiences, and other dispositions may shape response or mindsets.