Innovative CCSU Program Brings Growth Mindset Interventions to College Students

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Dr. Marianne Fallon, a professor of psychological science at Central Connecticut State University, is currently developing a groundbreaking program at CCSU that adapts growth mindset interventions for adult learners along with her colleague Dr. Kathleen Wall, program manager of the Travelers EDGE Program at CCSU.

A “growth mindset” is the belief that intelligence can be cultivated instead of being fixed and unchangeable. In an intervention, students are taught about the growth mindset and how it leads to academic success. Seeing that intelligence and competency can be fostered through hard work, practice, studying, and learning from past mistakes can make a huge difference for a student. The opposite belief (a “fixed mindset”) causes students to believe that intelligence is inborn with little room (or need) for self-improvement—which can severely hamper growth.

Growth mindset interventions have already been successfully implemented at the middle school and high school levels, but Dr. Fallon is one of the first to adapt it to fit into higher learning. A growth mindset is essential for students to flourish in their academic and professional lives, yet up to 80% of college students do not have it.

For Dr. Fallon and her team, the biggest challenge is adjusting growth mindset interventions to fit the unique needs of university students. “For the younger learner, there is no talk about exercise, drugs and alcohol, or sleep. But these are very important for adult learners,” said Dr. Fallon.

In addition, adult learners have spent more time getting the idea of fixed intelligence engrained into them, making it harder to unlearn. “Even though adult learners can conceptualize better than a nine-year-old, they are really used to approaching intelligence the fixed way, which has been the message they’ve received their whole lives. It’s a cultural entrenchment,” said Dr. Fallon.

During this academic year, Dr. Fallon will pilot a program to help faculty and staff encourage growth mindsets in CCSU students. Thirty-five faculty and staff members are attending a semester-long series of workshops. During the fall semester, the program will focus on key staff members who have close relationships with students, such as academic counselors and athletic directors. This spring semester, Dr. Fallon & Dr. Wall hope to introduce online modules for student use. “The idea is that faculty and staff could enroll students in the online training and can monitor and remark on student progress throughout the modules,” said Dr. Fallon.

This program will help CCSU students succeed both in the classroom and in their professional lives. Connecticut students stand to gain by being given the tools that will allow them to succeed. Dr. Fallon hopes other institutions of higher learning utilize her adapted growth mindset intervention program.

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