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Your attitude to learning challenges

Find out more about developing a positive learning mindset

At Portsmouth we believe in you. Our gold-rated teaching offers a life-changing learning experience, fostering the learning mindsets which help you unlock and fulfil your potential.

Recognising learning challenges

Student life involves lots of learning and life transitions, with new challenges at every level of learning. All transitions involve both endings – leaving some things behind – and new beginnings. Both the endings and the new beginnings will be accompanied by a mixture of feelings and it takes time to settle in to something new.

The process of learning itself means having to set out into the unknown, encountering uncertainty and risking failure in order to reach the shores of new knowledge and mastery of new skills. These challenges are an inherent part of the student experience, and will inevitably include uncomfortable feelings like stress and anxiety.

Your attitude to challenges

Your attitude to these challenges and to the accompanying feelings can make all the difference to your experience and to your eventual success.

Our Learning Well framework introduces the Compassionate Mind 3-system model, which explains that emotions like anxiety, associated with our threat response, are an essential part of our human survival kit. Sometimes the things we do to try to manage these difficult feelings, like avoiding challenges, can get us stuck in unhelpful loops of thoughts and behaviour which just makes things worse.

A compassionate mindset helps us recognise that when things get tough we need strength, courage and kindness to help us bear uncomfortable feelings and regain balance in our lives, doing what needs to be done to meet our needs and maintain the effort and perseverance to achieve our valued goals.

Adopting a compassionate mindset towards our emotions (and those of others) is part of developing a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset. When we adopt a fixed mindset towards our abilities and our worth we can worry about having to prove our abilities, suffer from ‘imposter syndrome’, or be concerned about whether we ‘fit in’ or belong. This could lead to us avoiding challenges, being concerned about asking for help, or seeing setbacks as proof we don’t belong.

By contrast, developing a growth mindset means recognising that we can grow our skills and capabilities and develop our intelligence through effort and hard work, trying new strategies and making use of support. Having a growth mindset helps us embrace challenges, seeing them as normal experiences and as opportunities to learn and grow. It means having the courage to be ourselves and seeking out quality supportive connections rather than following the crowd.

Your values and purpose

A compassionate mindset fosters recognition of your personal values and the wider sense of purpose giving meaning to your learning and life goals. These help you set your compass so you know you’re heading in the right direction, even when your immediate experiences are of uncertainty and confusion.

At Portsmouth you also have the values of the Student Charter to guide you – these are a set of principles that students and staff agree contribute to a great student experience. Our Learning Well framework encourages you to use the Student Charter as a guide to the mindsets that will support your wellbeing and your success as a student.

Resources for your learning journey

The Learning Well Transitions course is a short online course, in Moodle, with activities and links to explain these concepts in more detail. As you complete the course, you'll identify your personal values and goals, and update your own personalised resource map relevant to your current stage on your learning journey.

Contact information
  • Student Wellbeing Service
  • Floor 2, Nuffield Centre, St Michael's Road, Portsmouth, PO1 2ED
  • wellbeing-admin@port.ac.uk
  • +44 (0)23 9284 3466

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