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Towards a Learning Mindset: First-Year University Students’ Qualitative Perspectives on Gratitude in the Context of Learning Effort

Henry Mason


Signature strengths, such as gratitude, can assist students in navigating the demanding first-year experience. However, more research is needed to explore the role of gratitude in relation to cognitive benefits for students. This article reports on a constructivist grounded theory study that explored South African students’ conceptions and enactments of gratitude with regard to their learning efforts. Qualitative data were collected in individual open-ended interviews (n=22, age-range=18-23) and analysed using three interdependent coding phases (initial coding, focused coding and theoretical coding). The resultant grounded theory was titled ‘Thanks: Gratitude and learning resilience amongst first-year university students’. The findings revealed that gratitude could take many forms and has a
positive qualitative impact on students’ learning resilience, and that gratitude and learning resilience are emancipatory in nature. Limitations and areas for further research conclude the discussion.

Keywords: first-year experience; gratitude; positive psychology; resilience; well-being