IEEE Computer Society Team
Given budget cuts, enrollment declines, and technology’s ongoing impact on learning, universities are increasingly pressured to ensure that their students thrive both on campus and in the world beyond it.
To address this, computer science faculty at the Rochester Institute of Technology formed a Growth-Mindset Faculty Community of Practice (GM-CoP) in 2021. The goal was to discuss ways to transform growth mindset ideas into practices they could use to help their students succeed.
Sharon Mason and Elissa Weeden describe this semester-long GM-FCoP effort and its results in a paper that offers valuable insights for departments and universities looking for concrete ways to encourage a success-oriented mindset in their students, faculty, and staff.
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Psychologist Carol Dwek coined the term growth mindset to describe people who view intelligence and talents as capacities that develop and evolve over time. In contrast, people with a fixed mindset tend to see them as static, unchanging traits.
The fruits of each mindset are vastly different. Growth-minded people tend to be process-oriented and view obstacles and failures as opportunities to learn and grow, while fixed-minded people are more outcome-oriented and view challenges and failures as defeats that reflect their own inadequacies.
The implications of mindset on motivation and academic success in the classroom—where students are, by definition, challenged to learn new things—are potentially powerful, especially when growth mindset principles are an active part of pedagogy.
The GM-FCoP Plan
RIT’S 11-member GM-FCoP met weekly via Zoom during spring semester 2021 and discussed key texts, including:
They also acted out what they learned in faculty–student role-playing activities and formalized specific concepts into a toolkit that they could use in day-to-day interactions with students.
Follow-Up Study and Results
Following the GM-FCoP, external evaluators interviewed four of its leaders and found that all four could easily and accurately discuss growth mindset. The faculty members also described specific actions that they had already taken to help shift students toward a growth mindset.
One faculty member, for example, suddenly realized during an office-hours conversation that one of her students “was absolutely terrified of failure.” Her FCoP experiences helped her see this and also gave her tools to help him. She first emphasized the assignment’s low stakes in terms of his grade, and then discussed with him how making and learning from mistakes would support his growth and his success in his planned career.
Given the difficulties universities face today, using tools to encourage growth mindset not only gives their students potentially transformative support, but it also gives faculty, staff, and universities concrete ways to face their own challenges and possibly emerge stronger–and better–than ever.
Mason and Weeden’s paper “Chronicling the Development of a Growth Mindset Community of Practice for Computing Faculty: Lessons Learned and Looking Forward” offers detailed discussion of their GM-FCoP’s weekly meeting plans, takeaways, and tools; complete the form below to download.
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