When Dr. Anna Rogers and Larry Langellier presented their “Addressing Equity Gaps in STEM Coursework Utilizing Growth Mindset” at in-service in January, little did they realize the impact it would have across the campus.

Since their presentation, Rogers, counselor, and Langellier, professor of Information Management Systems, have been asked to present at various events, received testimonial emails and inquiries about this project, and now have won the Innovation of Year Award, along with Dr. Sadya Khan, director of Institutional Research and Planning.

“It is an honor to win this award. I am pleased beyond words by how much the growth mindset principles are empowering our students to push through and succeed in a very difficult course,” Langellier said. “I feel this work has just begun, and there is a lot more success to come. Each success story is a student persisting through a situation that might have knocked them off the learning continuum had it not been for their embrace of growth mindset.”

Rogers said they received an overwhelming response to their program. “We are so grateful and honored for this award and the support to scale our efforts in the future. This effort is different from just teaching neuroscience or growth mindset. We had to analyze, assess, plan and then implement. This program was tailored to the needs of students in CSC-140. It is largely about students feeling they belong to a reciprocal learning community, not just a classroom. Professor Langellier’s course was already a successful class. Collaboration this intentional can strengthen even already successful classes. The future plan is to share the details, mistakes, timelines and journaling with our faculty peers and help them as they consider trying this out.”

Rogers worked with one of Langellier’s computer science classes in spring 2019, and they continue to collaborate with his classes. She reviewed his class from the perspective of a student, journaling her thoughts and feelings, and together, they made changes to the course. Their strategy involved understanding the gaps holding students back such as prior experience in the subject, financial, gender or being in a nondominant population.

They looked at students’ fixed mindset versus growth mindset. The former get discouraged easily from setbacks, are defensive from feedback, do not think the effort is worth it, tend to give up easily and feel stuck without options. Rogers helped students change that into a growth mindset, which includes persisting even if some work is hard, facing fears with a curious attitude, finding a way to get work done, learning from feedback and taking responsibility from any setbacks.

They found some students were afraid they looked dumb because they were not as knowledgeable about material presented in class; they were not using Counseling, tutoring or office hours; they couldn’t purchase instructional tools; and/or they cheated out of desperation. Rogers and Langellier helped students develop a new relationship with challenge and effort, empowered them to seek help, aided them in learning and memory best practices, and educated them on how to accept and embrace mistakes for the sake of learning.

One approach used in the classroom was encouraging students to tap the “Not Yet” sign above the room light switch, reinforcing the idea they may not have mastered the subject matter, but they are committed to sticking with it and seeking help to reach their potential. An additional tactic used was having each student choose a song that motivates them to create a class playlist, which in turn helps create a learning community.

Since its implementation, students not only have had more success in this difficult class but also cited growth mindset as a reason for attempting the course again if they needed to withdraw. Langellier saw more than a 10% increase in student success throughout the class and a 30% improvement in the practice final exam.

“An important result we have seen is students are more willing to be vulnerable, share their shortcomings and share their feelings about what can be improved about a course when they are talking to a ‘trusted outsider,’” Langellier said. “We also proposed a Moraine Valley Learning Academy (MVLA) course, where we would create a buddy system for faculty to help each other brainstorm ways to introduce growth mindset into each of their courses but also potentially serve as the ‘trusted outsider.’ Anna and I look forward to working with future cohorts because we know their energy, and diverse backgrounds and experiences will bring new ideas we look forward to collaborating on.”

Since their in-service presentation, the duo was asked to speak at the Midwest Cisco Networking Academy conference; present at the recent League for Innovation in the Community College conference in Seattle, Washington; deliver an MVLA course; present in different classes, including working with the Honors Program; and speak at a campus IT leadership kickoff.

“The data collection and results have supported their unique programming and collaboration as having been significantly impactful. This would not have been possible without Anna’s student development research, theory and application as a solution. Dr. Sadya Khan was consulted and very helpful in constructing our survey with her breadth of knowledge and also in gathering historical data neither the counselor nor professor had access to,” said their award nominator. “One of the main objectives was to help students adopt a growth mindset, empowering them to seek help, increase comfort levels with making public mistakes and push through difficult or uncomfortable cognitions, including self-doubt. The class mantra became, ‘Mistakes are expected, inspected, corrected and respected.’”