Nurturing a Growth Mindset

Students on lawn What if watching a 30-minute video could increase student persistence by 30–50%? Current research suggests that some student success interventions may be simpler than we’ve ever imagined. In 2016 the University will join a collaborative project based in research on growth mindset and social belonging called the College Transition Collaborative.

The CTC, which began at Stanford University, emphasizes social belonging and first-year student success as well as helping students to develop a growth mindset. Mindset is an idea articulated by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck. In a “growth mindset” people believe that their abilities can be developed through hard work, practice, and discipline. This view creates a love of learning and ability to persist that leads to accomplishment. A partnership between researchers and administrators from nearly 25 universities, the collaborative promotes college persistence and achievement—two key components embedded in President Michael Schill’s goals for the UO. Schill is, himself, a first-generation college student and knows what it feels like to be “a duck out of water.”

Grant Schoonover, director of PathwayOregon and the project point person for the CTC said, “The aim of UO’s partnership with the CTC is to promote the persistence and academic achievement of all students, but in particular for first-generation, lower-income, and under-represented minority students.”

With the CTC model, incoming students take an online survey designed to elicit their own sense of belonging and ability to persevere. CTC’s research shows that these interventions help students see that their intelligence can grow when they work hard on challenging tasks. Students read descriptions from older students about common challenges in the transition to college and learn how they tackled them.

“The goal of these descriptions is simple. First, to convey to students that there may be times they do not feel like they belong at the UO and that this feeling is almost universal. And second, is that these feelings will improve over time. For students from under-represented groups, these messages help them anticipate and better prepare for social and academic challenges and in turn navigate ways to overcome them,” added Schoonover.

Stanford researchers found that even brief online interventions can be an effective and inexpensive way to raise student achievement. The interventions (administered as 30–60-minute online surveys) have shown to shrink the persistence and achievement gaps between majority and under-represented student populations by 35 to 50 percent.

Susan Lesyk, director of UO’s Teaching and Learning Center, said, “The CTC will help us craft ways to empower students by helping them recognize that setbacks are universal, rather than unique. The CTC will also offer strategies that reassure our students that it’s normal to feel uncomfortably out-of-place as they transition into unfamiliar academic and social settings.” Lesyk added, “On a personal level, I’m looking forward to learning more about growth mindset activities and exploring how we best go about integrating encouraging messages within our work with students.”

To learn more about the UO’s involvement in the CTC, contact Grant Schoonover. You can also download the overview of Stanford’s CTC project here and attend a lecture, hosted by the Teaching Effectiveness Program, on belonging and inclusive teaching by Stanford Professor Greg Walton, one of the CTC’s principal investigators, on January 15, 2016. Check the TEP Events listing for details.