Using Virtual Reality to Improve Learning Mindsets and Academic Performance in Post-Secondary Students

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Hawes, Daniel Joseph




Recent research indicates that most post-secondary students in North America "felt overwhelming anxiety" in the past few years, negatively affecting well-being and academic performance. Further research revealed that other emotions, biases, perceptions, and negative thoughts, not just anxiety, can similarly affect student academic performance. To address this problem, we classify these counterproductive thought processes, including anxiety, into a broader definition called Scarcity Mindset; a self-limiting perspective that appropriates cognitive bandwidth required for essential processes like learning in favour of addressing more critical needs or perceived insufficiencies. As such, through the lens of Scarcity Mindset, we conduct a multi-disciplinary literature analysis of innovative ideas in cognitive science, learning theories and mindsets, and current technology approaches that are suited to address the limitations of scarcity thinking. We identify strategies that help transition students to a more positive Abundance Mindsets. We identify knowledge gaps, research questions, and a theoretical framework called the Cyclical Priming Methodology (CPM) that proposes priming interventions throughout the Experiential Learning Theory (ELT) cycle. These intervention strategies focus on student preparation, motivation, reflection, and the context of the learning environment. Our research will focus on determining whether these priming interventions, intended to induce abundance thinking, improves academic performance. We demonstrate that these priming intervention strategies with proven empirical effectiveness within non-technology environments can transfer to leading edge digital environments like Virtual Reality (VR). Further, building on the CPM and using a related technology-based cognitive therapy technique called Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET) as a comparable model, we propose a specific VR implementation of the CPM called VR Experience Priming (VREP). Four completed studies validate our hypotheses and key research questions: priming interventions performed within the context of our CPM and VREP theoretical model do improve academic performance and are transferable to VR to increase cognitive availability and academic performance in both preparatory and context priming conditions. Proving in our thesis for all priming conditions was beyond the scope of this research but we plan to continue this research in 2022 and beyond.


Education - Technology




Carleton University

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Information Technology

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