IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

Lessons Learned as the Virginia Education Science Training (VEST) Program Creates Pathways for Diverse Students into Education Science

Since 2004, the Institute of Education Sciences has funded predoctoral training programs to increase the number of well-trained PhD students who are prepared to conduct rigorous and relevant education research. In addition to providing training to doctoral students, all IES-funded predoctoral programs are encouraged to help broaden participation in the education sciences as part of their leadership activities. In this guest blog post, the leadership team of the University of Virginia predoctoral training program discusses their continuing efforts to create diverse pathways for students interested in education research.

In 2008, the IES-funded Virginia Education Science Training (VEST) Program began the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) with the goal of recruiting more students from traditionally marginalized groups into education science research. Each year, 8–10 students from around the United States traveled to receive faculty mentorship in independent research at the University of Virginia. In doing so, they experienced facilitated opportunities to develop new research skills and reflect about their own identities as scholars and students of color, first generation college students and/or students from families with low income. They became active members of research groups, visited IES program officers in Washington, DC, and presented their own research at the Leadership Alliance National Symposium.

Quite fortuitously, at an IES principal investigator meeting, we connected with the leadership of the IES-funded Research Institute for Scholars of Equity (RISE) program taking place at North Carolina Central University (NCCU). As a result, for four years, we collaborated with RISE leadership to host two-day RISE fellow visits to UVA. During these visits RISE fellows shared their projects and ideas with VEST fellows and faculty. The RISE and SURP fellows also mingled and attended workshops on graduate school admissions.

We had three goals for these efforts:

  • Provide IES pre-doctoral fellows with the opportunity to apply leadership skills to working with undergraduates
  • Increase the diversity of education scientists
  • Increase the diversity of our IES-sponsored PhD program

Enter COVID. In 2020, bringing students to UVA for the summer wasn’t feasible or wise. Instead, we reflected on our past successful experiences with NCCU and realized we could improve the quality of student experiences if we also worked closely with faculty at other universities. To start, we engaged with Virginia State University (VSU) and Norfolk State University (NSU), two Virginia HBCUs, to create the Open Doors Program.

Initially, eight faculty and administrators from NSU and VSU met with the UVA team, which included a post-doctoral fellow and a PhD student who coordinated discussions, helped design the curriculum, and built an Open Doors handbook. The design team built a program in which 12 rising juniors at NSU and VSU would:

  • Engage in the research and writing process that will lead to a research product and presentation that reflects their strengths, interests, and goals
  • Gain a deeper understanding of the opportunities available to them in graduate school
  • Have the opportunity to examine the complexities and multiple layers of their intersectional identities, identify assets and cultural wealth, and identify academic strengths and areas of growth
  • Build relationships with faculty and graduate student mentors

Due to the pandemic, the program was offered virtually over four weeks with a combination of seminars and mentoring sessions. The program exceeded our expectations. The students all indicated that Open Doors was a useful learning experience for them and provided them with a better understanding of the opportunities available in graduate school. The faculty valued the opportunity to work with each other. We will be offering Open Doors 2.0 next June with another cohort of 12 students from NSU and VSU. We learned a lot from our first year and have planned several modifications to the program. For example, this year, we anticipate that students and some NSU and VSU faculty will be on campus at UVA for two of the four weeks; the other two weeks will be virtual.

These efforts have been true learning experiences for UVA faculty and VEST fellows. We have several recommendations for other programs eager to create pathways programs.

  • Clarify your goals and organize the program around the key outcomes that you are trying to achieve. For SURP and Open Doors, we focused in on four outcomes: preparation to conduct education research, preparation for graduate school, expansion of networks, and providing access to new mentoring relationships.
  • Teach skills as well as knowledge. Our evaluation of SURP points to the importance of teaching skills so students can formulate research questions, recognize research designs, analyze and interpret data, and write about research. Students reported gaining skills in these areas which are critical to success in graduate school in education research.
  • Identify ways to enhance cultural capital. Students benefit from knowledge, familiarity, and comfort with university life. In Open Doors, we wanted to build an authentic collaboration that allowed faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students at the HBCUs and UVA to learn from each other, extending the cultural capital of all participants.

Our efforts have been exciting yet humbling. Above all, we enjoy listening to and learning from the SURP and Open Doors students. In Open Doors, we also enjoyed building relationships with faculty at other institutions. We have increasingly become aware of the challenges we face in efforts to increase the diversity of our programs. Recruitment is just a first step. Creating graduate school experiences that are conducive to learning and engagement for students from diverse group is an important second step. And a third critical step is to transform life at our universities so that students (and faculty) from traditionally marginalized groups can thrive and flourish. In doing so, we expect that universities will be better able to meet a full range of new challenges that lie ahead in education science.


Sara Rimm-Kaufman is the Commonwealth Professor of Education at the University of Virginia School of Education and Human Development.

Jim Wyckoff directs the Education Policy PhD program and the Center on Education Policy and Workforce Competitiveness at the University of Virginia.

Jamie Inlow is the Coordinator for the VEST Predoctoral Training Program in the University of Virginia School of Education and Human Development.

This blog post is part of an ongoing series featuring IES training programs as well as our blog series on diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) within IES grant programs.

Produced by Katina Stapleton (Katina.Stapleton@ed.gov), co-Chair of the IES Diversity and Inclusion Council and predoctoral training program officer.

DE21: A Researcher-Practitioner-Policymaker Conference on Dual Enrollment

Dual enrollment improves student college going and postsecondary success, but practitioners need help in understanding the impact of dual enrollment and in learning strategies associated with effective and equitable implementation. Under the auspices of the IES-funded Evaluation of Career and College Promise (CCP) project, the North Carolina Community College System suggested hosting a conference to build knowledge and capacity in the field about dual enrollment. The Evaluation of CCP is a partnership with the SERVE Center at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, the North Carolina Community College System, and the RAND Corporation. In addition to the research goals—which involve looking at the implementation, impact, and cost of North Carolina’s dual enrollment program—the project also has a goal of capacity development for the agencies and for practitioners. As part of meeting this last goal, the project recently hosted a conference on Dual Enrollment: Accelerating Educational Attainment (DE21) with over 1,000 registrants from North Carolina and around the country.      

Julie Edmunds, the project’s principal investigator, discusses the DE21 conference.

Why host a conference on dual enrollment?

This was the brainchild of our partners at the North Carolina Community College System. They wanted to create an opportunity where researchers and practitioners could gather and share lessons learned from their respective work. The NC Community College System expected that we would be learning a lot from our project that we would want to share; they also knew that the people in the trenches had many valuable insights to help bridge the gap between research and practice. Because existing research shows that not all groups of students have the same access to dual enrollment, the project team decided collectively that the conference should have a strong focus on equity and to use the conference as a way to communicate and discuss strategies to support equity.

What happened at the conference?

We had a total of 40 sessions across two full days. There were dynamic keynote speakers, including Karen Stout from Achieving the Dream, and panels that discussed dual enrollment from the policy, research, student and parent perspectives. Although there was a strong North Carolina focus, there were sessions from other states such as Massachusetts, Texas, Indiana, and Ohio.

Conference presentations were organized into five themes: expanding access and equity, fostering college attainment, ensuring a successful transition to college and careers, preparing students for dual enrollment, and supporting success in dual enrollment courses.

The CCP study team presented findings from our evaluation of North Carolina’s dual enrollment pathways. We looked at individual and school-level factors associated with dual enrollment participation, such as student demographics, school size, locale, percentage of students from underrepresented minority groups, academic achievement, and workforce-orientation of students. Student socioeconomic level did not affect participation in dual enrollment. We also presented preliminary impacts of North Carolina’s three different dual enrollment pathways (college transfer, Career and Technical Education, and Cooperative Innovative High Schools or early colleges). Results from these three pathways showed that CCP participants had better high school outcomes such as higher school graduation rates and were more likely to enroll in postsecondary education. In addition, there were multiple sessions sharing research results from other states.

There were many presentations from practitioners that focused on topics like rigorous instruction, advising, participation of students with disabilities, creating strong secondary-postsecondary partnerships, using high school teachers as college instructors, among others. I need to give a huge shoutout to Katie Bao from the NC Community College System, who shepherded us all through the conference planning and implementation process.

What was the impact of the pandemic?

When we originally planned for the conference, we thought it would be in person. After the pandemic hit, we decided (as many other organizations did) to host it virtually. This made the conference much more accessible to a national audience, and we had participants and presenters from around the country.

What if someone missed the conference?

Another benefit of a virtual conference is that we are able to share all the sessions from the meeting. Please visit our site on YouTube to listen to the conference. 

What comes next?

Our study work continues, and we will share the results in a variety of ways, including through briefs and journal articles. We are also planning to host a second conference in 2023 and expect that it will have a virtual component so that it can continue to be available to a national audience.


Dr. Julie Edmunds is a Program Director at the SERVE Center at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. In addition to being the PI on the Evaluation of Career and College Promise, she is one of the leading researchers on early college, a model that combines high school and college.

Student-Led Action Research as a School Climate Intervention and Core Content Pedagogy

Improving the social and emotional climate of schools has become a growing priority for educators and policymakers in the past decade. The prevailing strategies for improving school climate include social and emotional learning, positive behavioral supports, and trauma-informed approaches. Many of these strategies foreground the importance of students having a voice in intervention, as students are special experts in their own social and emotional milieus.

Parallel to this trend has been a push toward student-centered pedagogical approaches in high schools that are responsive to cultural backgrounds and that promote skills aligned with the demands of the modern workplace, like critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration. Culturally responsive and restorative teaching and problem- and project-based learning are prominent movements. In this guest blog, Dr. Adam Voight at Cleveland State University discusses an ongoing IES-funded Development and Innovation project taking place in Cleveland, Ohio that aims to develop and document the feasibility of a school-based youth participatory action research intervention.

 

Our project is exploring how youth participatory action research (YPAR) may help to realize two objectives—school climate improvement and culturally-restorative, engaged learning. YPAR involves young people leading a cycle of problem identification, data collection and analysis, and evidence-informed action. It has long been used in out-of-school and extracurricular spaces to promote youth development and effect social change. We are field testing its potential to fit within more formal school spaces.

Project HighKEY

The engine for our project, which we call Project HighKEY (High-school Knowledge and Education through YPAR), is a design team composed of high school teachers and students, district officials, and university researchers. It is built from the Cleveland Alliance for Education Research, a research-practice partnership between the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Cleveland State University, and the American Institutes for Research. The design team meets monthly to discuss YPAR theory and fit with high school curriculum and standards and make plans for YPAR field tests in schools. We have created a crosswalk of the documented competencies that students derive from YPAR and high school standards in English language arts (ELA), mathematics, science, and social studies in Ohio. For example, one state ELA standard is “Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence,” and through YPAR students collect and analyze survey and interview data and use their findings to advocate for change related to their chosen topic. A state math standard is “Interpret the slope and the intercept of a linear model in the context of data,” and this process may be applied to survey data students collect through YPAR, making an otherwise abstract activity more meaningful to students.  

Assessing the Effectiveness of YPAR

Remaining open-minded about the various ways in which YPAR may or may not fit in different high school courses, we are currently testing its implementation in a pre-calculus course, a government course, an English course, and a life-skills course. For example, a math teacher on our design team has built her statistics unit around YPAR. Students in three separate sections of the course have worked in groups of two or three to identify an issue and create a survey that is being administered to the broader student body. These issues include the lack of extracurricular activities, poor school culture, and unhealthy breakfast and lunch options. Their survey data will be used as the basis for learning about representing data with plots, distributions, measures of center, frequencies, and correlation after the winter holiday. Our theory is that students will be more engaged when using their own data on topics of their choosing and toward the goal of making real change. Across all of our project schools, we are monitoring administrative data, student and teacher survey data, and interview data to assess the feasibility, usability, and student and school outcomes of YPAR.

Impact of COVID-19 and How We Adapted

We received notification of our grant award in March 2020, the same week that COVID-19 shut down K-12 schools across the nation. When our project formally began in July 2020, our partner schools were planning for a wholly remote school year, and we pivoted to hold design team meetings virtually and loosen expectations for teacher implementation. Despite these challenges, several successful YPAR projects during that first year—all of which were conducted entirely remotely—taught all of us much about how YPAR can happen in online spaces. This school year, students and staff are back to in-person learning, but, in addition to the ongoing pandemic, the crushing teacher shortage has forced us to continue to adapt. Whereas we once planned our design team meeting during the school day, we now meet after school due to a lack of substitute teachers, and we use creative technology to allow for mixed virtual and in-person attendance. Our leadership team is also spending a great deal of time in classrooms with teachers to assist those implementing for the first time. Our goal is to create a resource that teachers anywhere can use to incorporate YPAR into their courses. The product will be strengthened by the lessons we have learned from doing this work during these extraordinary times and the resulting considerations for how to deal with obstacles to implementation.


Adam Voight is the Director of the Center for Urban Education at Cleveland State University.

For questions about this grant, please contact Corinne Alfeld, NCER Program Officer, at Corinne.Alfeld@ed.gov.

Is believing in yourself enough? Growth mindset and social belonging interventions for postsecondary students

The WWC recently reviewed the strength of evidence for two types of interventions designed to help students succeed in college: one report focuses on growth mindset interventions and another on social belonging. The WWC found that (1) neither type of intervention had a discernible effect on full-time college enrollment, (2) social belonging interventions had mixed effects on progressing in college and academic achievement, and (3) growth mindset interventions had potentially positive effects on academic achievement. We asked Greg Walton, an Associate Professor at Stanford University, IES-funded researcher, and expert on these kinds of interventions, to discuss what college faculty, administrators, and students should make of these findings.  

Can you walk through how growth mindset interventions and social belonging interventions with postsecondary students work? Were the interventions reviewed by the WWC typical interventions in this space?

Growth mindset interventions focus on the underlying “implicit” beliefs students have about the nature of intelligence: Is intelligence fixed or can it grow? These beliefs inform how students make sense of everyday academic challenges in school. If you think that intelligence is fixed, that you either have it or you don’t, then a setback like a poor grade can seem to be evidence that you don’t have what it takes. That can make students avoid academic challenges, withdraw, and ultimately learn and achieve less. Growth mindset interventions offer students the view that intelligence can grow with effort, hard work, good strategies, and help from others. The theory is that that mindset can help students see setbacks simply as evidence that they haven’t learned the material yet, or that their strategies haven’t been successful yet, and thus to sustain their efforts. These interventions typically start by sharing information from neuroscience about how the brain grows “like a muscle” during learning, especially when students work on challenging material. Then students might read stories from older students who used a growth mindset to persist through challenges. Finally, they may be asked to describe this idea to help younger students struggling in school, a technique termed “saying-is-believing.” That makes the experience active rather than passive and positions students as benefactors rather than beneficiaries, which would be potentially stigmatizing.

Social-belonging interventions target “belonging uncertainty,” a persistent doubt students can feel about whether “people like me” can belong in a school setting. This doubt arises most strongly for people who belong to groups that have historically faced exclusion in school settings, negative stereotypes that pose them as less able and less deserving of educational opportunities, or who are underrepresented in a school context. When students experience this doubt, everyday challenges such as feeling lonely, being excluded, or getting critical feedback can seem like evidence that they don’t belong in general. Social-belonging interventions share stories from older students who describe how they worried at first about whether they belonged in a new school and how these worries dissipated with time as they developed friendships and study partners, joined student groups, and formed mentor relationships. Belonging interventions offer students the view that it’s normal to worry about belonging at first in a new school but this gets better with time. Like growth mindset interventions, belonging interventions use written exercises to give students the opportunity to reflect on the intervention message and advocate for it to younger students. The theory is that this message can help students sustain a sense of belonging and stay engaged in school even when they face challenges, and that that helps students develop friendships and mentor relationships that support higher rates of achievement.

Social-belonging interventions were designed specifically to address circumstances in which people face underrepresentation or negative stereotypes in school. Even if all students have reasons to worry whether they belong in school, only some students have reason to question whether “people like me” belong. I am a White person whose parents both graduated from college. So, when I went to college, I felt homesick but I didn’t wonder whether “people like me” could belong.

That said, belonging concerns are felt by almost everyone, and in some cases belonging interventions have produced main effects (benefits for all students) rather than interactions predicated on group identity (e.g., Borman et al., 2019 for evidence from students in grade 6). However, most trials find greater benefits for students who face underrepresentation or negative stereotypes in specific settings. One study found that women in more gender-diverse engineering majors (averaging 33% women) showed no achievement gap with men in the first year and no benefit from a belonging intervention. But women in male-dominated majors (averaging 10% women) showed a large achievement gap in first year performance, but that gap was closed by the intervention (Walton et al., 2015; see also Binning et al., 2020) [Editor’s note: These two latter studies did not meet WWC standards for internal validity. Although this suggests caution in drawing conclusions from the studies, failing to meet WWC standards does not imply that an intervention is ineffective.]

Taken together, a fixed-mindset of intelligence and belonging uncertainty can be like a toxic tornado for students, swirling into each other and creating cascading self-doubt. I’m describing these interventions separately because they grew up independently in the literature, and the WWC’s two reports look at each separately. But for students, they are often experienced together.

It’s also important to state that, although the interventions reviewed by the WWC are typical of those conducted with postsecondary students, these are highly active areas with new trials reported regularly. Studies have explored new populations and college contexts (e.g., Murphy et al., 2020) and are increasingly focused on identifying boundary conditions that determine where we should and should not predict effects (see Bryan, Tipton, & Yeager, 2020). It is also noteworthy how few studies have examined the critical question of progress in college (3 in each report). We need much more research here, exploring effectiveness, implementation strategies, and boundary conditions. Further, research is increasingly complementing direct-to-student interventions by exploring how we can support practices in school that support growth mindset and belonging (Murphy et al., 2021). For example, recent research shows that highlighting pro-diversity peer norms—namely that most students endorse diversity—can facilitate more inclusive treatment among college students and, in turn, reduce achievement gaps between privileged and marginalized students (Murrar et al., 2020).

What are the key components that are needed for a social belonging or growth mindset intervention to have a good chance of working? What elements need to be in place to help students improve academically or to stay enrolled in college?

I would distinguish two layers of this question.

One layer is what does it take for a discrete exercise focused on belonging or growth-mindset—such as the focus of the trials reviewed by WWC—to help students. In general, we should consider what, how, when, and where.

What is it you want to offer students? It should give students an authentic and adaptive way to make sense of common challenges they face, a way of thinking they can use to achieve their goals in college. Simple exhortations such as, “I know you can do it” or “You belong!” do not effectively impart a growth mindset or a sense of belonging, as Carol Dweck and I have written. Instead, it is useful to use high-quality materials developed and validated in research. Examples of materials available online are here and here.

How will you convey this? The goal of these interventions is to address foundational beliefs students have about school, such as “Can I do it?” and “Can people like me belong here?” It’s not to do something else, like to build a skill. That means the experience need not take long—typically, interventions last 30-60 minutes—but it should be immersive and interactive. You want students to deeply reflect on the ideas you present and connect these ideas to their lived experience.

That said, the more you can implement approaches that are scalable within an institutional context the more students you can potentially help. That’s one reason recent trials that reach large samples have focused on online modules (e.g., LaCosse et al., 2020; Yeager, Walton, & Brady et al., 2016). Students can log-on individually and complete materials at near-zero marginal cost. However, these approaches also have challenges, as online modules may not be as engrossing as in-person experiences. As we have moved from delivering these interventions in one-on-one, in-person experiences to larger studies with materials delivered online, we have found that students spend less time on the same materials and write less in response to prompts. Another alternative is having students meet in-person in groups to participate in these interventions or discuss their content (see Binning et al., 2020; Murphy et al., 2020), but that may be more difficult to implement on a large scale. So, there can be trade-offs between reaching scale and creating deep and impactful experiences.

When should you do this? In general, it is valuable if an intervention happens earlier rather than later, so it can alter trajectories going forward. However, it may be optimal to deliver interventions soon after students have encountered some challenges, but before they have taken steps in response to those challenges that are hard to reverse (e.g., dropping out). In general, social-psychological interventions are more sensitive to timing than to dosage. Growth mindset and belonging interventions have been delivered from the summer before college (Yeager, Walton, Brady, et al., 2016), to the first academic term (Walton et al., 2015), to the second (Walton & Cohen, 2011).

Where should you deliver interventions? This brings us to the second layer. So far, I’ve addressed the first layer, where you are focused on a discrete experience or set of experiences. But the second layer is that, growth mindset and belonging interventions will be most effective in contexts in which (1) the message offered is legitimate and authentic (locally true) and (2) students have real opportunities to get academic support and to develop a sense of belonging. In the end, to produce the most robust change, we must create cultures in schools in which adaptive ideas about ability and belonging are normal and reinforced. There are many ways that institutions signal to students, even inadvertently, messages about the nature of intelligence and who belongs. In welcoming a new class to campus, do we extol the past achievements of a few, which may only heighten imposter syndrome among everyone else? Can we instead talk about what students can do in the future and who they can become? In welcoming students to class, do faculty communicate that they expect to weed out large numbers of students? Or do they design assignments and evaluations to support students’ learning and growth (Canning et al., 2019)? Another question involves how well colleges foster opportunities for students to develop in-group pride and identity. Tiffany Brannon at UCLA finds that African American students do better in college when they have more opportunities to participate in events that celebrate and explore Black culture (Brannon & Lin, 2021). Some resources to help researchers and practitioners create cultures of growth and belonging for all students are available at the Student Experience Project, co-led by the College Transition Collaborative (https://collegetransitioncollaborative.org/student-experience/).

Recently, you and your colleagues have distinguished between people with different characteristics - and environments with different characteristics. You’ve argued that researchers should be looking more closely at the contexts, or what you’ve called “psychological affordances” in which these interventions might have different effects. Why is this work important? Why should educators be paying attention?

Social-psychological interventions operate within complex systems. Those systems invariably determine the specific effect any intervention has. To understand this, my colleagues and I have found it useful to consider the affordances of a school context: What does a context make possible (Walton & Yeager, 2020)? For instance, no psychological intervention will help English-language speakers learn Chinese if they aren’t receiving instruction in Chinese.

We distinguish two kinds of affordances. One is structural: What is it that different institutions make possible for students to do? As an example, in a forthcoming study, Shannon Brady, Parker Goyer, David Yeager, and I tracked college outcomes of students randomly assigned to a social belonging intervention or a control condition at the end of high school. The intervention raised the rate of bachelor’s degree completion for students who first enrolled in more selective 4-year institutions from 26% to 43%. These are institutions that tend to have higher retention and graduation rates and tend to spend more per student on instruction and student services than less selective 4-year institutions. They thus afford higher 4-year completion rates. At the same time, the same belonging intervention had no effect on bachelor’s degree completion rates for students who first enrolled in less selective 4-year institutions.

The second kind of affordance is psychological: What is it that students can believe in a school context? Does the cultural context in which an intervention is delivered one in which the way of thinking offered by the intervention can take hold and thrive? Or is it one that makes that way of thinking illegitimate, inauthentic, or not useful?  A large-scale social-belonging intervention delivered online to students in 21 diverse colleges and universities increased first-year full-time completion rates for students from historically underperforming groups, but only in colleges that afforded, or fostered, a sense of belonging to members of those groups. Let’s break this down: In some college contexts, students from historically underperforming groups (who were not exposed to the intervention) realized a high sense of belonging by the end of the first year. Here the belonging message was “locally true” (true here, for people like me). Although we don’t know exactly why this was the case, presumably in these schools students from the given group had more opportunities to develop friendships, to join student groups, and to form meaningful relationships with instructors. In other colleges, students did not attain this high sense of belonging by the end of the first year. Only in the first case did the belonging intervention raise first-year completion rates (Walton, Murphy et al., in prep; described in Walton & Yeager, 2020).

In both cases, the belonging intervention helped students take advantage of opportunities available to them, whether to graduate or to belong. An important implication is that it may be necessary to address both students’ beliefs and whether contexts support more positive beliefs. That’s helpful, because it gives us a precise way to think about how to make contexts more supportive: To what extent do they make adaptive beliefs about intelligence and belonging legitimate and authentic and, if they do not, what can we do about this?

It sounds like you’re saying postsecondary leaders who want to foster greater student success and reduce gaps in retention and academic performance may want to consider these kinds of interventions, in part because they are relatively inexpensive to deliver to large numbers of students. But they should also consider how hospitable their campus is to students who might initially struggle in college.

For example, to reinforce a growth mindset, universities need to make academic support resources truly accessible; to reinforce a sense of belonging, universities might look for multiple ways to communicate that successful students of all kinds of backgrounds have initially experienced self-doubt, and that feeling like you don’t belong is a fairly normal and temporary part of adjusting to college.

That’s right. Growth mindset and belonging are about both student beliefs or ways of thinking and institutional practices—either alone may not be enough. So, to support a growth mindset, institutions should both (1) convey that all students can learn and grow with effort, good strategies, and support from others and (2) back that up by creating learning environments designed to support growth, including adequate academic supports, and classes that focus on fostering growth rather than identifying who is allegedly smart and who is not. To support belonging, institutions should (1) acknowledge that nearly all new college students worry at first about whether they belong, that this is normal and improves with time and (2) create classroom and out-of-classroom environments in which all of the diverse students we serve can develop strong friendships and mentoring relationships and find communities in which they belong.

Thanks very much, Greg.

 

Read the WWC’s summary of evidence for these interventions in the Growth Mindset Intervention Report and the Social Belonging Intervention Report. Find related resources at the The College Transition Collaborative (https://collegetransitioncollaborative.org/) or the Project for Education Research That Scales (https://www.perts.net/)

 

Carter Epstein, Senior Associate at Abt Associates, produced this blog with Greg Walton, Associate Professor of Psychology at Stanford University.

 

Note: The discussion above reflects the opinions of Greg Walton and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Institute of Education Sciences or the What Works Clearinghouse. Some of the studies cited above have not been reviewed by the What Works Clearinghouse.

 

REFERENCES

Binning, K.R., Kaufmann, N., McGreevy, E.M., Fotuhi, O., Chen, S., Marshman, E., Kalender, Z.Y., Limeri, L., Betancur, L., & Singh, C. (2020). Changing social contexts to foster equity in college science courses: An ecological-belonging intervention. Psychological Science, 31,1059-1070. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797620929984

Borman, G.D., Rozek, C.S., Pyne, J., & Hanselman, P. (2019). Reappraising academic and social adversity improves middle school students’ academic achievement, behavior, and well-being. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116 (33), 16286-16291. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1820317116

Brady, S. T., Walton, G. M., Goyer, J. P., & Yeager, D. S. (in prep). [Where does a brief belonging intervention increase the attainment of a college degree? The role of institutional affordances.] Manuscript in preparation.

Bryan, C. J., Tipton, E., & Yeager, D. S. (2021). Behavioural science is unlikely to change the world without a heterogeneity revolution. Nature human behaviour, 5(8), 980–989. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-021-01143-3

 Bryk, A. S., Grunow, A., Gomez, L. M., & LeMahieu, P. G. (2015). Learning to improve: How America’s schools can get better at getting better.  Harvard Education Press.

Canning, E. A., Muenks, K. ,Green, D.J., & Murphy, M.C. (2019). STEM faculty who believe ability is fixed have larger racial achievement gaps and inspire less student motivation in their classes. Science Advances, 5(2). https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.aau4734 

Dweck, C. (2016, January 11). Recognizing and overcoming false growth mindset. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/blog/recognizing-overcoming-false-growth-mindset-carol-dweck

Murphy, M.C., Fryberg, S.A., Brady, L.M, Canning, E.A., & Hecht, C.A. ( 2021, August 25). Global Mindset Initiative Paper 1: Growth mindset cultures and teacher practices. https://ssrn.com/abstract=3911594

Murrar, S., Campbell, M.R. & Brauer, M. (2020). Exposure to peers’ pro-diversity attitudes increases inclusion and reduces the achievement gap. Nature Human Behavior 4, 889–897 . https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-020-0899-5

Walton, G.M. (2021, November 9). Stop telling students, “You belong!” Three ways to make a sense of belonging real and valuable. Education Week. https://www.edweek.org/leadership/opinion-stop-telling-students-you-belong/2021/11

Walton, G. M., Logel, C., Peach, J. M., Spencer, S. J., & Zanna, M. P. (2015). Two brief interventions to mitigate a “chilly climate” transform women’s experience, relationships, and achievement in engineering. Journal of Educational Psychology, 107(2), 468–485. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1061905

Walton, G. M., Murphy, M. C., Logel, C., Yeager, D. S., Goyer, J. P., Brady, S. T., . . . Krol, N. (in preparation). Where and with whom does a brief social-belonging intervention raise college achievement? Manuscript in preparation.

Walton, G. M. & Yeager, D. S. (2020). Seed and soil: Psychological affordances in contexts help to explain where wise interventions succeed or fail. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 29, 219-226. http://gregorywalton-stanford.weebly.com/uploads/4/9/4/4/49448111/waltonyeager_2020.pdf

Yeager, D. S., Walton, G. M., Brady, S. T., Akcinar, E. N., Paunesku, D., Keane, L., Kamentz, D., Ritter, G., Duckworth, A. L., Urstein, R., Gomez, E. M., Markus, H. R., Cohen, G. L., & Dweck, C. S. (2016). Teaching a lay theory before college narrows achievement gaps at scale. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 113(24), E3341-E3348. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1524360113