The M-word. Motivation? Mindset!

Starting a new calendar year by thinking about how you learn is a good step.

Warning – this post contains a lot of questions!

Child reading a book, surrounded by mathematical scribbles
I recently read an interesting article about being a self-directed distance learner. Studying this way clearly requires strong motivation and a readiness to learn. Many principles, however, are also sound prerequisites for learning at university in general.


The first – M

1. I am motivated: I have a desire or need to know or do something.

OK, you need to move on from school, college or current work and want to do something new. Firstly, clearly define ‘something’! Motivation does not come from other people telling you, your peers pressurising you into or family tradition dictating what you should do. Well known are the two main types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Evan Tarver explains it intelligently and concludes that a combination of the two is best with the ideal result of being happy and content. (Happiness? Discuss).

And while looking into the balance of the two types of motivation, as usual, I get stuck in some psychology of learning. Do you know the Premack principle?  This principle is synonymous with the so-called ‘Grandma’s rule’:

tiramisuvegetable dish‘if you eat your vegetables…

then you can have dessert.’

Something along the lines of ‘work hard, play hard’, I reckon. Think about what being motivated means to you.

2. I set goals and make plans for my learning; I know what I want to do and how I will schedule my time.

Wall planner calendarBack to the distance or distant learner. Goal setting and scheduling in general are tools that can/will keep you on track. When you start university, you will be using diaries, timetables and should get into your study rhythm pretty soon. There are, however, whole days with no timetabled classes as such which needs getting used to. Time to establish library visits, reading in general, group work, etc. Then there is the awkward second year, when you are meant to enjoy yourself as a student. But even then, planning should not go out of the window. If you set rules, establish habits early on, however small, you will benefit and soon notice what works best for you. (I use this video in my teaching on time management mini-habits.   This other video is also interesting.)

OK, here we go again. This will touch on things like being organised, making plans or planning a project. It is proven, once you feel organised and on track, your motivation will kick in. Have a look here for timetable templates.

3. I find and manage academic resources, knowing where to look and who to ask when I have questions or concerns.

Faculty Librarian and studentsThis part touches on information literacy (plus other literacies like ‘academic’). The information literacy landscape as used by librarians lists skills and abilities, intelligence, motivation, environment, personal attributes, IT skills, academic integrity, feelings, perceptions, mediations and more. Quite a list, isn’t? From who you speak to, what ethical angle you look at to how capable and critical you are when searching the internet, all of this is part of it. Distinguishing between fact and opinion? Developing an awareness of fake news pieces?

Awareness is good, training in required and constantly changing skills is even better:

4. I measure my academic progress by reviewing my goals and making adjustments as needed.

Dartboard/bullseyeProgress checks require reflection, knowing how to benefit from your tutors’ feedback, seeking and discussing feed forwards and building a sustainable support network amongst other things. Get into the habit of always asking yourself questions:

  • Where am I?
  • Where am I supposed to be?
  • Have things changed and how?
  • What do I learn from that step/ mark/ comment?
  • Why am I here?

These will help you to make realistic adjustments throughout your studies.

Last but not least, keep focused on what comes next after your course finishes.  Nowadays we do not know exactly the types of jobs that are waiting for us out there in 10+ years’ time. One gem in there is the factoid, trivial but interesting by nature, that only one job completely vanished in the last 60, that of the elevator operator. But read on. Good to know that “humanities students should not abandon their love for the arts, as key to a student’s future success and happiness is the pursuit of a career they enjoy”. In fact, five of the key skills for future employment involve the use of key human skills, such as mental elasticity and complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, people skills, and interdisciplinary knowledge.


The second – M

Arguably, motivation is the biggest driver. Whether you are motivated by money, recognition, the number of followers on social media, your subject, a desire to help others, to progress or invent something, it is motivation with a capital M. Probably a good mix of intrinsic and extrinsic. The other fascinating M, however, is your mindset. Do you have a fixed or growth mindset?

In their book, The Student Mindset (2019), Steve Oakes and Martin Griffin discuss how and why students can be successful at what they are doing. Apart from previous educational success, learning styles and such things like your tried and tested strategies and techniques, the authors developed VESPA. These are characteristics including vision, efforts, systems, practice and attitudes of students. It looks at things like comfort zones people need to break out of and offers ways of looking at one’s own attitudes. Interrogate yourself in a chain of related questions and be honest to yourself.

Try these questions from Oakes & Griffin (2019, p. 118-119):

  • How do you respond to something that goes wrong?
  • Are you attending lectures?  If not, why?  Be honest to yourself – why?
    • Because you are staying in bed until 11am – Why?
    • Because you don’t feel motivated to go in? – Why?
    • Because you are not enjoying it – Why?
    • Because it is too theoretical at the moment and does not link to your practical work – Why?

Take some actions immediately and you will feel better for having done something. Generally, people are willing to help, signpost you somewhere further or even suggest solutions. Sleep on it, then act on it.

Do not be happy with plateauing in your development. If you have to write an essay in your first year, you cannot use your A-level materials. Make sure you fully understand the brief and see the task in the context of the whole teaching unit. Perhaps try to push yourself beyond your comfort zone (write something every day, let someone else read your draft and comment, or try a different collection in the Library) and, finally, always seek feedback.

This all feeds into being self-directed and becoming independent. Here is a visual summary:

TES self-directed learning model

Source: TES

You will see that the terms ownership, extension of and monitoring your own learning nicely mirror the above questions on motivation and mindsets.
Lots can be found in the literature about how to work with peers, in groups and benefit from team efforts. However, everybody should give herself or himself individual learning space as well as carry out regular progress checks. Did you know that research convincingly shows that past success does not correlate with future successes?

So, if you get into the right mindset, motivation will follow. Make 2020 a purposeful year!

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Come recycle with us!

What a load of rubbish! One of the Library 3-sectional recycling bins.Welcome to 2020!

One of our new year’s resolutions is to become still more sustainable, recycle more and send less to landfill.  For this, we need your help!

One of our biggest problems is that recycling gets mixed up and food waste or leftover drink gets mixed in with the dry recycling (packaging, empty cups and lids, etc).  Once something gets wet or soiled, it can no longer be recycled, so just one half-empty cup of coffee in the wrong bin can spoil an entire sack and consign it all to landfill.

Happily, remembering what goes where is easy:

  • Red and green bins are for recycling;
  • Black bins are for food waste;
  • Blue bins for liquids.

See it.  Separate it.  Sorted!

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IbisWorld changes (21 January 2020)

IbisWorld will change to a new interface on 21st January 2020.  Click here for a sneak preview (on campus or via VPN).  When this happens, the link to IbisWorld will change.  Please change any links you have bookmarked to match the link from the IbisWorld Library catalogue record.

What’s changing?

The new IbisWorld interface allows you to do anything you can do but with the benefit of a more modern interface.  It will also offer an iExpert summary for each UK report, available by clicking under the lightbulb icon (found on the extreme left-hand side of the screen).

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New eBooks – December 2019

What follows is a list of new ebooks received by the Library during December 2019 ordered by title. More complete details, as well as listings from previous months, are available on our website’s New Books page in the form of downloadable Excel spreadsheets.

Read more ›

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New Books – December 2019

What follows is a list of new books received in the Library during December 2019 ordered by classmark. More complete details, as well as listings from previous months, are available on our website’s New Books page in the form of downloadable Excel spreadsheets.

Read more ›

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Can studying Business make you stupid?

Student asleep atop a pile of books and notesWell… according to one study, undergraduate Business students (emphatically not students at Portsmouth Business School!) were observed to be less able to think clearly after university a few weeks of university teaching than before.  It is suspected this was largely due to the all-night drinking sessions and longer-term sleep deprivation that plagues so many students.  Read more about the link between sleep and study performance in this Financial Times article (you might be asked to sign in if you are off-campus). Read more ›

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The new Mintel: feature preview

Mintel is changing on 14 January 2020.From 14th January, Mintel will have a new look and a load of new features to make your life easier.  The new search includes all content from Mintel reports and Mintel trends.  The new interface combines everything into a single convenient “I’m looking for” box.

Just as Amazon suggest other books you might want to read, suggested reports related to your search appear right-hand side of your search results.  You can also now filter your results by category, region, trend drivers and demographics to focus your search on what particularly interests you.  

Search results appear as a grid with the option to just see full market research reports or brief topical trends and observation overviews.  Reports look the same as before once you click on them, except that you can now use the quick menus to jump to particular report sections and save time scrolling. 

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Mintel is changing

Mintel is changingMintel is changing on 14th January 2020.

Watch this blog for further details after Christmas or download a sneak preview with these new user guides for Mintel Reports and Mintel Trends.

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Changes to Library Fines and Recalls

From January 2020, we will be changing the way we recall books that have been reserved by someone else.  Any outstanding fines have been removed from your library account.  Your loans will continue to be automatically renewed unless someone else has reserved an item on loan to you, in which case we will email and ask you to return the recalled item by a specified date.

What will change in January is that instead of charging you for overdue recalled loans, we will block your Library account so that you cannot borrow or renew anything until the recalled item has been returned.  If you still do not return the recalled item, you will be invoiced for a replacement.  Blocked accounts can only be restored during staffed library hours.

We have also reduced the number of notifications we send to you about your library account.  You will now only receive an email when you are being asked to take action, such as returning a recalled book reserved by someone else, collecting a book you reserved that is now available, or returning all your loans upon completion of your course.

We hope these changes will make our processes easier to understand and encourage the timely return of books for others to use.

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Additional help with Law databases and certification

Are you finding the thought of getting your head around Lexis Library and Westlaw UK a daunting task? Come along to the Library for weekly drop in clinics to get a sense of what is involved. These sessions provide an invaluable perspective on the certification process from your representatives for these databases. To help you we have two student associates for our main legal databases who will run their weekly clinics on Mondays, 12-1pm and Tuesdays 2-3pm in the Library Meetings Room 0.12.

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