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The Navigator Toolkit: Your Compass for Supporting Student Motivation

By: Monique Calderon Dotson   |   October 2023

The Navigate Project, is a collective of educators, advocates, funders, and researchers dedicated to developing and adapting evidence-demonstrated learning mindset-supportive practices in the postsecondary access and success space. The Navigate Project is a research translation initiative led by Motivate Lab. Motivate Lab is driven to improve people's lives through rigorous motivation research. We focus on understanding the mindsets and motivations that promote learning, growth, and well-being. These insights are used to develop evidence-based solutions that can be applied across educational and extracurricular contexts.

Do you ever find it difficult to motivate students through the advising process? Does it feel like there could be “something else” that students need in order to feel more engaged in the process? 

Students may have all of the technical information from you that they need to make progress on their plans for life after high school but might feel stuck or disconnected from the tasks and conversations related to postsecondary planning. Feeling stuck or uncertain is not an uncommon experience for most students (and their advisors). The reality is that there are a variety of factors that pull on student motivation as they build their postsecondary plans.  

Young adults face a critical development juncture as they prepare for and transition into a variety of postsecondary pathways, including the workforce, technical programs, institutions of higher education, and the military. There are systemic barriers that can affect the transition to postsecondary contexts that many students face, including Black, Indigenous, and Latine students, first-generation students, and students from low-income backgrounds. These effects can snowball, and have an impact on future career opportunities, economic mobility, well-being, and other life trajectories. 


How can advisors bolster motivation and amplify student identity, voice, and agency in the advising process? 

Bridging Learning Mindsets with Advising 

Learning mindsets, our beliefs and perceptions about learning, are one additional and high-potential way that advising programs can support their students. Students’ learning mindsets are more than just personality traits; they are shaped and maintained by the cultural, social, and learning context in which students interact. Fostering students’ learning mindsets is a promising approach to support students transitioning to postsecondary settings because learning mindsets are meaningful, malleable, and measurable.  

There are many learning mindsets that practitioners might target to support students. Mindset GPS focuses on three of the most impactful and thoroughly studied learning mindsets that help students navigate the postsecondary transition. 

(G) Growth Mindset: Belief that intelligence can be developed through hard work, use of effective strategies, and help from others when needed. 
(P) Purpose & Relevance: Belief that schoolwork is valuable because it is connected to a larger purpose and/or relevant to one’s life. 
(S) Sense of Belonging: Belief that one is academically and socially connected, supported, and respected. 

When these three learning mindsets are supported by their advising program, students are more likely to feel equipped with tools to navigate key transitional periods in their lives, especially the one between high school and postsecondary opportunities. Research suggests that when programs cultivate contexts that support well-developed Mindset GPS, their students are more motivated to take on challenging work, more likely to persist in the face of setbacks, and more likely to achieve at higher levels. 

How do you foster learning mindsets in students? Are there existing resources that advisors can incorporate into their practice and program structures?  

At the Navigate Project at Motivate Lab, we heard a desire among advisors to acquire resources that increase student motivation as students build their postsecondary plans. We also recognized the need for those advisors to have access to resources that have been vetted and aligned to Mindset GPS by our team of researchers and practitioners.  

Meet The Navigator Toolkit 

The Navigator Toolkit is a free online repository of resources designed to support postsecondary advisors in identifying ways to implement growth mindset, purpose and relevance, or sense of belonging (Mindset GPS) practices into their programming.  

Our hope is when there is a desire to support students with learning mindset supportive practices and messages, The Navigator Toolkit will be a platform practitioners can leverage to help inform their advising practices and programming.  

Try the Navigator Toolkit 

Resources available in the toolkit, like Identifying Sparks, are organized and filterable regarding learning mindset, evidence quality, and implementation time. Click here to learn more about our approach and the filters on the toolkit.  
We invite you to share this resource with individuals, schools, or organizations in your network who may benefit from accessing resources from The Navigator Toolkit. 

Do you have lesson plans, student activities, checklists, or other items that support students on their postsecondary journey?  

Consider sharing a learning mindset-supportive resource that can be featured on The Navigator Toolkit. Send your resources to

Monique Calderon Dotson is a first-generation college graduate and longtime postsecondary success practitioner who is passionate about fostering equitable postsecondary outcomes for students from historically marginalized and traditionally underserved populations. Monique is the Postsecondary Pathways Director for the Navigate Project.