Team Members: Ron Allman, Professor of Journalism; Donna Dahlgren, Professor of Psychology; Melanie Hughes, Associate Librarian; Tom Keefe, Emeritus Professor of Business
Project Description: Donna Dahlgren and Tom Keefe worked on data analysis, looking at persistence numbers to complete the developmental math M101 course, as well as qualitative analysis of essay responses. Donna Dahlgren and Melanie Hughes presented the research to the IU Southeast Developmental Math Team and at the 35th Annual Conference on the First Year Experience (peer-reviewed) in Orlando on February 21st. The results were also presented to IU Southeast Unit Heads. Dahlgren was also able to meet with University of Texas’ Yeager at a conference, and talk about our intervention. Dahlgren and Hughes are starting to write up the results in a paper and have been asked to submit our research to a peer-reviewed publication, Journal of The First-Year Experience & Students in Transition. Dahlgren met with the math faculty to work on incorporating the Math Mindset Intervention as an assignment into their courses for Fall 2016. Hughes received a Research Incentive Grant from the Indiana University Librarians Association to present in Orlando and Urbana-Champaign (below). Dahlgren is also working to expand Mindsets into courses with high DWF rates including accounting and writing.
Melanie Hughes worked with two senior psychology students meeting weekly or biweekly from November to April to apply Grounded Theory to qualitatively analyze the essay responses of first year students and peer-mentors. Donna Dahlgren mentored the students in quantitative analysis for code frequencies and in looking at retention data of the Collegiate Summer Institute cohort. Hughes and students presented findings to the Director of the Collegiate Summer Institute and at the Illinois/Indiana TRIO Professional Development Conference (peer-reviewed) in Urbana-Champaign, IL on April 18th. The students presented at the Student Research Conference on April 22nd. The team is reaching out to Student Services to include the belonging intervention online after orientation, but before Induction Day. Hughes and Dahlgren will be working on writing up the results for submission to a peer-reviewed journal.
Progress made on the project and next steps: We have learned that short psychological interventions can have a big impact on student persistence and retention. We have also learned that you can influence students in the wrong direction with bad advice (“Don’t stress too much. Just laugh it off.”), when they need to be applying different, constructive strategies for course success. We have learned that changing the fixed mindsets of faculty with regard to student learning is also important (“Some students just aren’t college material. Half of you will fail this course.” “We shouldn’t hold their hands.”), and that it may take multiple exposures for faculty to understand their own mindsets and how to give growth feedback to students.
We have learned from the literature that students who are “disadvantaged” (first-generation, low-income, ethnic minority) can experience academic set-backs in a stronger way if it is coupled with a feeling of not belonging on campus. This feeling of not belonging and fixed academic mindsets can cause students to develop a sense of learned helplessness and a self-fulfilling prophecy that they aren’t meant to succeed in college (Yeager, Panuesku, Walton, Dweck, 2013).
It is important to stress to students that fail (or even getting a C, which some of our students see as failure) is not a bad thing, but a sign and an opportunity to learn new strategies and re-direct their learning efforts.
Future of this project: We recommend that Academic Affairs works with Student Affairs to make mindset and belongingness interventions part of every student’s experience. We suggest that these interventions take place before Induction Day, either before or after orientation. These interventions can be taken online as a trial.
We also need to share information with our faculty, support and professional staff through training and ongoing support to help change the culture of the campus to be even more supportive of student learning and supporting positive self-beliefs. We await the outcomes from the class of 2016 at the University of Texas that experienced the first large-scale online mindset interventions in the Summer of 2012. We will be writing up our results from both interventions to be shared in the literature to encourage other universities to create in-house interventions at low-cost and big results for their students.