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Session 2: Self-Regulation, Self-Efficacy, Growth Mindset and Goal Orientation

Lesson Overview

This session is focused on learning styles and academic motivation, particularly in the context of feedback. With this in mind, students are introduced to code review techniques to begin the technical portion of the course.

For quick reference, here is a glossary of terms used in this session:

  • Self-Regulation - Self-regulated learning involves a feedback cycle where a learner observes his or her learning, tries out new strategies, and makes judgments about whether these strategies have worked. Developing a sense of what is working and what steps have been completed (and which were skipped) requires practice, and can benefit from a sounding board (or a mentor/coach who serves as a mirror). By helping to map out what the learner has done, and asking the learner good questions, he/she is more likely to identify gaps or next steps for himself/herself. As a peer mentor, it can feel more natural to jump right into coaching and tell the student what to do. However this does not help the learner in the longer run to become more strategic and planful. This perspective meshes with why writing comments as you go along and planning ahead on computer programs helps when you go back to troubleshoot.

  • Self-Efficacy - Self-efficacy is one's perception of capability, and in particular the capability to navigate through challenging material and persist in spite of difficulty. This self-perception can be accurate or inaccurate as some individuals judge themselves more harshly than others. Self-efficacy is one of the most important predictors of learning and persistence in learning. Self-efficacy is shaped by 1) one's prior experiences (including an accumulation of small successes), 2) observations of peer role models (those who struggle before succeeding are more motivational than those who appear to succeed without any struggle), 3) verbal persuasion such as instructor feedback (specific, timely feedback is more motivating than vague, inconsistent feedback), and 4) physiological responses to learning such as anxiety (influenced by the classroom environment). Helping students to feel in control of their learning and monitor their own progress can help to build self-efficacy.

  • Growth Mindset - Growth vs. fixed mindset can influence the type of feedback provided by instructors. A fixed mindset is very common among math and science teachers, which is difficult to shift. Receiving “comfort feedback" can demotivate students as the instructor is providing a false sense of reassurance and implies that ability is fixed. Talking about this feedback is important because not all teachers can rely on their own experiences to resonate with student experiences, especially if they were consistently successful and did not struggle. Many science and technology instructors still believe that STEM ability is fixed. Learning about comfort feedback can help peer leaders and teachers to recognize it and avoid doing it. More importantly, it can help the instructor practice other ways to give feedback effectively, specifically in a way that communicates growth mindset and can motivate students to undertake the challenge of revision and help-seeking.

Overall Motivations and Objectives

  • Reflect on own learning style and academic motivations

  • Reflect on how these affect peer mentorship

  • Learn basic code review techniques

Prerequisite Knowledge

To use this module, the following readings, activities, and reflections should be completed:


Preliminary Activities

Instructor Reflections

In preparation for teaching this material reflect on the following prompts:

  • Recall your time as a student. In what areas did you have high self-efficacy? Low self-efficacy? How was that shaped by your experiences?

  • As an instructor, how do you interact with students with differing levels of self-efficacy in your field?

  • Do you believe, in some instances, that ability is fixed? How has that shaped the type of feedback that you give?

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Lesson Plan


  1. DiscussionReactions to Learning and Motivation Self-Inventory (30 min)
  2. Discussion: Self-Efficacy, Motivation, and Learning Styles (30 min)
  3. Break (10 min)
  4. Introduction to Code Review: Overview of types of feedback and tools (10 min)
  5. ActivityCode Snippets (30 min)
  6. ActivityPeer Mentoring Roles and Effective Feedback (30 min)
  7. Review Assignments for Next Session
  8. Exit Feedback

Discussion: Reactions to Learning and Motivation Self-Inventory (30 min)


Students should have previously completed the Learning and Motivation Self-Inventory.



  • What are your motivations? Did your perception of them change after reflection/readings?

  • What is self-regulated learning? What is involved in the self-regulatory feedback loop?

  • What does it mean to be a strategic learner? What kinds of behaviors does a strategic learner engage in?

  • How can a peer mentor, learning coach, or instructor help a student to improve in their strategy toward learning?


To form a baseline of vocabulary and understanding for the next discussion.

Discussion: Self-Efficacy, Motivation, and Learning Styles (30 min)


The topics of self-efficacy, academic motivation, and learning styles cover a lot of information. This discussion may be broken into several parts with breaks in between.



  • Self-Efficacy:

  • What is self-efficacy? How is this different from self-esteem or ability? Why does it matter?
  • What does self-efficacy predict, or help us to understand, with regard to learning and a student’s willingness to persist in the face of difficult material?
  • Which four factors influence the development of self-efficacy? Based on this information, what role can peer mentors and instructors play in shaping or (re)building self-efficacy in students?
  • Do you have high self-efficacy in some areas, but not others? How does that affect how you approach those subjects?
  • Research has documented that some groups of students, such as women, are more likely to rate their self-efficacy lower even when they have the same or more actual ability in a given domain. In other words, they underestimate their own capability even when they are successful. Why do you think this is? What should instructors or peer mentors do with this information?
  • Goal Orientation:

  • What is your goal orientation? How does that affect your schoolwork?

  • How does a student’s goal orientation affect how you will interact with them as a peer mentor?

  • What type of mindset do you have? How will that affect your peer mentorship?


To apply the topics from the readings (self-efficacy, self-regulation, growth mindset) to peer mentorship

Introduction to Code Review: Overview of types of feedback and tools (10 min)


A portion of the GEMs job is technical code review of submitted assignments. They are introduced to the tools (platforms, software, etc.) chosen for use in the review process.



To familiarize students with best practices in code review and tools to be used.

Activity: Code Snippets (30 min)


Students gain practical experience by reviewing brief snippets of code. Have students form pairs and go through the Code Snippets handout looking for syntax and logical errors. Once all groups are done, have each pair explain what errors they found in one snippet and how they would explain the mistake to the student who wrote the code. Discussion may flow naturally from these explanations.


Sample Code Review Handout


Students gain proficiency and confidence in technical code review.

Activity: Peer mentoring roles and effective feedback (30 min)


Peers can struggle to establish authority, or they can be taken as having more authority than they actually have. Thus, clarifying their role and helping them to establish and then maintain boundaries is important (see Packard et al., 2014). 

Sometimes a learner can feel he/she has done everything possible but does not realize a key step or two from the process was skipped. One technique that a peer mentor or instructor can use is to “mirror back" to a learner what the learning process looks like, rather than immediately telling a student what to do to improve. By taking notes and mapping out the learning steps, a learner may identify gaps on his/her own. Or at least, by mapping it out, the gaps are more apparent. Asking questions “what do you think is next?" or “where could we find this information?" can be a useful strategy.


Slides: Peer Mentoring Roles and Feedback


Students learn more about acting as a mirror and as a coach, and practice mirroring in pairs.


Common Issues

A number of the terms discussed during this session (especially in Self-Efficacy, Motivation, and Learning Styles) are complex and there isn’t usually room to give them the time they deserve.  At least establishing some basic definitions and connections to readings with help students get oriented.


For Students
  • Introduction to Code Review
    • Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  • Motivation and Learning Styles
    • Connecting with other mentors who learned differently than you can help you identify better with PEBLs who learn differently than you, or have other motivations.
  • Peer Mentoring Roles (Mirror vs Coach)
    • This is very important, and you will probably have to remind yourself to be the mirror rather than the coach quite a lot.
    • Don't underestimate feedback strategies that you aren't familiar with.
  • Exit Feedback
    • Be honest and self-reflective, don’t worry about giving the responses you think the instructors want to hear.

Assessment, Debrief, and Looking Ahead


For each session, two types of feedback are collected. First, anonymous feedback collected immediately at the end of the session. While this may be done in any form, we chose to use simple index cards passed out at the end of the class deposited anonymously at the classroom exit as the students left. The benefit of this form of feedback is its immediacy - thoughts and feelings relating to the session are fresh in the students' minds. Students were instructed to write anything they felt like - or nothing at all.

The second type of feedback was an Exit Feedback Google Form which the students were asked to complete before Midnight on the day of the session. Sample Exit Feedback Form.


Students should complete the Reflection on Learning and Motivation by writing answers

to the following prompts:

  • What did I learn about myself that might be useful to me in my own studies?

  • What did I learn about myself that will be useful when I am a peer mentor?

  • What might I need to invest in or work on to be effective as a peer mentor?

Looking Ahead

In preparation for the next session on Emotional Intelligence students should read:

Drawing on these readings, students should prepare for the next session with the fol-

lowing activity:

Supplemental Reading

Yan, V. X., Thai, K. P., & Bjork, R. A. (2014). Habits and beliefs that guide self-regulated learning: Do they vary with mindsets? Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 3, 140-152.

The article finds that college students who hold a growth mindset, or a view that intelligence is malleable and can grow, are more likely to value self-testing and other valuable learning strategies.


Kinnunen, P., & Simon, B. (2012). My program is ok – am I? Computing freshmen's experiences of doing programming assignments. Computer Science Education, 22(1), 1-28.

Even when students complete programming assignments successfully, students may still perceive their own competence negatively. The researchers recommend helping new programmers to build their self-efficacy through small successes, and holistic feedback on their progress and concept development, rather than just the outcome (whether or not the program runs correctly).

Zeldin, A. L., Britner, S. L., & Pajares, F. (2008). A comparative study of self-efficacy beliefs of successful men and women in mathematics, science, and technology careers. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 45(9), 1036-1058.

Based on an interview study, researchers compared men’s and women’s stories as related to their careers; men were more apt to focus on mastery experiences whereas women focused on connections to others, including vicarious learning from role models and social persuasions or encouragement from others.  

Self-regulated learning:

Barak, M. (2010). Motivating self-regulated learning in technology education. International Journal of Technology Design Education, 20, 381-401.  

A paper that describes self-regulated learning, the role of self-efficacy, and the importance of students’ awareness of their own learning strategies for persisting in challenging, creative technological learning spaces.

Nelson, K. G., Shell, D. F., Husman, J., Fishman, E. J., & Soh, L., (2015). Motivational and self-regulated learning profiles of students taking a foundational engineering course. Journal of Engineering Education, 104(1), 74-100.

Data drawn from students enrolled in an introductory computer science course, enrolling predominantly engineering students, suggested that knowing the motivational profile of the student helped to predict their engagement. Those students who planned to major in computer science were more likely to report an adaptive learning profile (and less apathy toward learning) than other students.

Growth mindset:

Yeager, D.S. & Dweck, C.S. (2012). Mindsets that promote resilience: When students believe that personal characteristics can be developed. Educational Psychologist, 47, 1-13.

This article explains the concept of growth mindset, or the belief that intelligence is malleable and can grow (vs. a view that it is fixed). Such beliefs are associated with resilience and productive learning strategies. Beyond academic domains, growth mindset is associated with positive outcomes in personal domains as well.