Stanford University’s PERTS Expands Groundbreaking Initiative to Help Community College Students Succeed by Developing Learning Mindsets

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The College Perspectives Program uses research-tested methods to increase community college students' achievement and motivation.

“I'm excited to see the impact it will have on students’ mindsets and achievement.”

Community college is a vital pathway for adults of all ages to acquire new skills and knowledge that can help them succeed in today’s rapidly changing economy. Yet too many students get discouraged by the rigors of college coursework and dropout because they do not believe they can master the material.

To help more students persist and earn community college degrees, Stanford University’s PERTS Lab is inviting community colleges across the country to participate in the College Perspectives Program, a groundbreaking initiative designed in consultation with Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck to help students develop learning mindsets that have been shown to increase persistence, motivation and achievement.

The College Perspectives Program is particularly focused on helping students develop a growth mindset, or the understanding that a person’s intelligence is malleable and can be increased. Cultivating this belief is key to helping students increase their resilience and engagement with challenging coursework.

In an early version of the College Perspectives Program, which included over 1,400 community college students during 2012-2014, the program:
-Increased the rate at which students were enrolled full-time by over 15%; and
-Increased the rate at which students earned credit in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses by over 20%.

Inspired by these results, Stanford’s PERTS is expanding the College Perspectives Program to help thousands of community college students across the country make progress towards their degrees by developing a growth mindset towards their studies. PERTS will analyze the results of the program in what will be the largest study of its kind at community colleges.

Currently, only 23% of students who start at community college earn an associate’s degree or transfer to a 4 year college within 6 years. Many students hold limiting beliefs about their abilities, such as the belief that their intelligence is fixed at birth. This belief leads students to believe that they are they are not capable of succeeding, making them less resilient. Many give up quickly when faced with a setback or may simply avoid enrolling in challenging but essential courses.

“How can community colleges use growth mindset research to help their students? The College Perspectives Program is the best example yet of how this can be done,” said Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. “I'm excited to see the impact it will have on students’ mindsets and achievement.”

The College Perspectives Program helps students become resilient learners by supporting them develop growth mindsets and skills. This online program:
-Targets key beliefs about the nature of intelligence, students’ motivation and engagement;
-Helps students reach their full potential by developing more adaptive beliefs that complement efforts to improve academic skills; and
-Builds on past successful programs by tailoring materials to the needs and perspectives of community college students.

The College Perspectives Program consists of two online training sessions that take a total of 60 minutes for each student to complete. There is no cost for community colleges to enroll and to make the program available to its students, though at least 1,000 students from each participating school must be enrolled.

For additional information about how your community college can participate in this study, please visit

PERTS (the ‘Project for Education Research That Scales’) is an applied research center at Stanford University. It partners with schools, colleges, and other organizations to improve student motivation and achievement on a large scale.

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Laura Stahl
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