A Social-Psychological Perspective on College Persistence

Presenter: David S. Yeager, UT Austin Department of Psychology

  • Research Affiliate, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS)
  • Fellow, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
  • Co-Chair, Mindset Scholars Network
  • Co-PI, College Transition Collaborative (CTC)

Information on the Terry Piper lecture series

Opening Remarks by William Watkins, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students at CSUN

  • This is the sixth annual Terry Piper lecture!
  • Deepen understanding of factors that lead to student success
  • Terry Piper served as VP from 2001 until he passed in 2010
  • Terry was on a mission to put students at the center of what we do every day. He was an intentional and collaborative leader, a trendsetter and someone who wanted to make CSUN an exemplar in becoming a learning-centered campus. Dr. Piper was at the center of all the conversations around this movement.
  • Student success is not just the work of faculty members in the classroom, but all of us who work on this campus.
  • Our CSU system has focused on student success this year, in particular, through Graduation Initiative 2025 to help more students graduate – “make it to the finish line.”
  • We need to look beyond barriers students may experience

Remarks from Provost Yi Li

  • I appreciate how many people are in attendance today! This is important because it takes our entire community to support our students.
  • I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Yeager speak last year, along with several of my colleagues, and I was extremely impressed with his research in advancing our knowledge of student mindset, their ability to be aware of their place in the campus ecosystem, and their value, self-worth and potential for growth.
  • Dr. Yeager’s message is not just theory…it includes practical advice on how to address students who are having challenges. In general , we are not encouraging when having difficult conversations. We tend to use punitive language that frequently leads students to give up…the exact opposite of what we want students to take away.
  • CSUN’s initial work using Dr. Yeager’s recommendations is very promising!

Dr. Yeager’s Presentation

  • More than 1/2 of your students are first-time college attendees…your institution is a gateway to the American dream for so many people.
  • Your campus is doing great work with developmental math, and you have a willingness to learn and improve, which is critical to making improvements.
  • I’m going to share some insights about our research…some levers you might try pulling in your own work. My hope is that this will help you transform and continue to improve an already great place.
  • Our findings came through research and work over decades

“Solutionitis” – doing something – anything – to and for students

  • Mentoring, cohorts, accountability, choosing major, placement, career planning, video games, etc. These solutions may work for some students in certain situations, but are they coherent?
  • Most of these solutions did not “move the needle” in the desired direction, and in some cases falsely led to conclusions that students have a lack of ability and shouldn’t be in college to begin with.
  • Approach to doing things with more rigorous and faster: you need to keep standards high, but improve the supports for students
  • The questions students ask themselves when they encounter adversity can heavily influence their college success trajectory.

The College Transition

  • Self esteem typically drops during the first semester; it’s hard initially, but it improves over time.
  • When the student’s self esteem falls, we need to ask attribution questions: “Is this normal,” and “does it get better?”
  • These are the same kinds of questions our veterans ask themselves.

Belonging Uncertainty

  • The persistent worry that “people like me” don’t belong and cant succeed here.
  • It’s not just the questioning, but the questions themselves. Ambiguity can lead to answers that lead to concrete attributions, i.e. if you’re looking for certain answers, you’re gonna find them.
  • This is a recursive process that can gain momentum and  spiral downward.
  • It’s typically cumulative, beginning with bureaucratic hassles. Dr. Yeager provided flowchart examples for math and engineering pathways, which was pretty funny 🙂
  • Another bureaucratic hassle: web forms that delete your information! What does it MEAN that the form is frustrating. If you’re surrounded by advantages, than this frustration doesn’t portend anything significant…it’s just annoying. If you’re NOT in this position, the annoying form could be significant to you in other ways.
  • 1st generation students aren’t walking around asking whether they don’t belong, but when they encounter difficulty they may interpret it in a negative way.
  • What can you measure in high school that will impact retention? High belonging uncertainty is a big factor (particularly among 1st gen and minority students).
  • Belonging is something with traction that you can focus on
  • CSUN 2015 – 2016 survey: what is the best predictor of first-year, full-time enrollment for Fall & Spring?
    • Belonging
    • Extracurricular involvement

Pre-Matriculation Mindset Intervention

  • Difficulties are normal, and can get better with time if you take steps to become socially and academically integrated.
  • Growth mindset and social belonging
    • Give if/then behaviors to do
    • Give theory and meaning in advance, not proscriptive steps to follow
    • Make surveys as brief as we can
    • Read about the brain: struggle – “getting smarter,” not “dumb.” The brain is a muscle that needs exercise.
    • Read statistical results of a survey of upperclassmen
    • Read stories from diverse upperclassmen
    • Write your own story to comfort next year’s freshmen (“saying is believing”). This is an invitation to a community.
    • Freshman Orientation Website
    • On time degree completion in one of our studies: tripled and even quadrupled when the interventions mentioned above are done: 16% growth mindset only, 20% social belonging only, 20% mindset & social belonging.
    • UT Austin study showed a 20 %- 40% reduction in the achievement gap

Post-Matriculation Moments of Psychological Friction

  • How many events are students experiencing that threaten their success?
  • Common student frustration factors:
    • Faculty members’ beliefs that only students with exceptional brilliance can succeed: “If it’s not easy for you, you’re in the wrong major”
    • Losing interest in pre-req courses
    • Frustrating web sites and other bureaucratic hassles
    • Stigma of remediation and probation
  • What can be done to slow decline and psychological friction?
    • Mentor’s dilemma: how to simultaneously criticize and motivate. Many do this via the “shit sandwich,” i.e. provide a useless compliment, followed by the gut punch of criticism, followed by another useless compliment.
    • High standards & achievement that show you respect students. Example: a Post-it note given to students a couple weeks in advance of a writing project, “I give criticism because I have high standards, and I know you can meet them.” was quite effective.
  • Relevance matters: help students see and construct the relevance of classroom activities.
    • Select a topic covered in class
    • Write a one paragraph essay that applies the topic to your life or to the life of someone you know (control: just summarize)
    • 3-5x per semester

Think about the “belonging uncertainty” pipeline and fix the leaks!



Hey y’all! Here’s my “MEGA POST” for my stint at the 2016 EDUCAUSE national conference in Anaheim from October 25 – 28.

Tuesday, October 25

Wednesday, October 26

Thursday, October 27

Friday, October 28

  • [ KEYNOTE ] Because I Said I Would

Student Mobile Takeover: Announcing the Winners of the Great Mobile Appathon


  • Mark Albert, Director, University Web & Identity Services, The George Washington University
  • Andrew Yu, Founder and CTO, Modo Labs, Inc.
  • Matthew Willmore, mobileND Program Manager, University of Notre Dame

Goal was to get the tools for managing web apps into the hands of non-technical people at universities, so that they could make amazing apps themselves.

Schools participating in this event iteration included:

  • George Washington
  • Harvard
  • Florida State University
  • Notre Dame
  • Arizona State University


  • 14 teams, 56 students competing in total
  • Students and university benefited from this competition
  • We like the fact that through this competition, we can see exactly what student want
  • Students enjoyed the experience
  • “NutitioNOLE” was the winner at FSU
  • Eat, move learn

George Washington

  • Great way to raise awareness of the platform
  • Better understand how students wish to use their mobile devices
  • Better understand the gap between the app and student needs
  • To get the word out, we did posters, postcards, email blast, reminders to students in class
  • 80+ students; 12 teams competed
  • Outstanding ideas from our students
  • Modo’s support was great
  • 2nd place: parking app
  • 1st place: Gworld – campus ID card: dining/retail, printing, load $$, places to study


  • Fun and competitive environment to find out what our students want
  • Marketed via web site, My ASU banner ads, email
  • 10 teams, great wide-ranging ideas
  • Of our judges, each had a different winner
  • 2nd place: travel on campus
  • 1st place: ASUFit – targets fitness culture and social engagement


  • Driven by student interest; strong culture of hackathons; event that allowed non-programmers to participate
  • Marketed via Student IT interest groups, student houses, SoMe, school CIOs
  • Intense, collaborative, inspiring
  • 2nd place: dining app that includes nutritional information so students can choose the correct
  • 1st place: bliss, a resource for maintaining mental health

Notre Dame

  • Always seeking opportunities to engage students in real-world development and design
  • Equal interest in students with and without technical chops
  • First opportunity for us to see how well students could use Publisher
  • Proved to us that we can use students more to manage our mobile app material
  • Marketed via: campus flyers, table tents, email, banner and home screen icon, co-promotion with other like events
  • 7 teams
  • 2nd place: Rate My Plate – allows students to provide feedback about dining services.
  • 1st place: Mary’s View – highly visual way to find events of interest around campus; incorporates maps so students can find events near their location.

Judges & Judging Criteria

  • Chris Barrows, NYU
  • Jenny Gluck, Syracuse
  • Julia Zaga, Uber
  • Santhana Naidu, Indiana State
  • Sarah Hoch, GE Power
  • Eric Kim, Modo Labs
  • Judging Criteria: address challenge of improving campus life; creativity and innovation; design/user experience; completeness

Harvard’s “Bliss” App is the winner!


Developing a Mobile App to Track Student Engagement in High-Impact Practices


  • Amir Dabirian, VP for IT-CIO, CSU Fullerton
  • Matthew Badal, Administrative Analyst, CSU Fullerton
  • Su Swarat, Director of Assessment and Educational Effectiveness, CSU Fullerton

What are HIPs?

  • Occur when students are actively engaged in the learning process
  • Students involved in HIPs report greater gains in learning in personal dev
  • Underrepresented students affected positively the most

Common HIPs

  • First year seminars
  • Common intellectual experiences
  • Learning communities
  • Writing intensive courses
  • Internships
  • Etc.

CSUF Strategic Plan

Presidential goal is to increase student persistence, increase grad rates, and narrow the achievement gap for underrepresented students.

  • Get 75% of all students involved in at least TWO HIPs.
  • Broaden access to HIPs
  • Curricular (course based) and co-curricular (activity) based programs

CSUF Definition

  • Transformational
  • Significant student engagement
  • Experiential learning
  • Etc. (the list is long)

Institutionalize HIPs through a Data-Driven Approach

  • We don’t want to call something HIP unless it actually IS a HIP
  • We triangulate each course/program through a set of criteria to ensure HIP quality
  • Over 4,000 students now in designated HIPs

HIPs Technology Tracking

  • Technology, Tools, Data Collection
  • LMS has HIPs Templates
  • Peoplesoft Tracking & Designation (transcript)

We started it all through a survey, and as a result of this, we decided to accomplish this via a mobile app, but .

We harness the power of our existing app…why? Because it has a killer app built in that students go back to again and again – PARKING.

Data Collection Technology Tools Attendance

  • iBeacon deployed in all classrooms
  • All our HIPs use this feature to ensure participation

How Does the App Work?

  • Shake phone to register attendance
  • For each course, we provide HIP activity items for students to record their participation in each.
  • Real-time integration to LMS; the LMS provides the ability for professors to drill-down and view student attendance and participation.
  • It’s still a work in progress. Faculty orientations are continuous, and we also help students learn how to use the app. App changes: addition of activity tracking for more customization; multiple hour tracking feature

Humans Make the App Work

Sample timeline in a semester:

  • Pre-semester: app improvement, faculty training
  • Weeks 1-2: in-class student training
  • Weeks 8-10: mid-semester check-in, ongoing tech support, initial data collection
  • Weeks 14-16: post survey administration, heavy data collection, final tech support

Data Analysis & Assessment

There were a lot of graphs in this portion of the session, so my notes are a bit thin here.

  • Most of the gains were attributable to our female students
  • Self reported learning gains were almost universal
  • The more feedback received, the more improvement seen
  • Data identified colleges where student involvement was higher or lower than expected; this has affected pedagogical practices

Product Management CG


  • Chas Grundy, Manager, Product Services, University of Notre Dame
  • Deborah DeYulia, Director, Program Management, Duke University

Join the group: bit.ly/prodmgmtcg

What do you want from this group?

  • Learn how to create a culture that thinks in terms of products
  • Seeing a more developed product management group
  • Organizing around product management, interfaces to other parts of the organization

Product Manager vs. Project Manager

  • A product manager is the CEO of products. Goal is to deliver a product that customers love (intersection of UX, Tech, Business). Concerned with WHAT.
  • A project manager is responsible for achieving project objectives and is accountable for the outcome of the project. Concerned with HOW.
  • Common responsibilities
    • Align activities with strategic objectives
    • Work with cross-functional teams
    • Strong influential and collaborative skills
    • Guide critical decisions
    • Orchestrate key activities
    • Manage key deliverables
  • Product manager is more closely associated with strategic concerns.

Product Manager is a way to address ongoing sustainability of the products we use.

Product Management Boot Camp

  • Notre Dame’s Project Management office trains dozens of people how to be good project management. My goal was do the same for Product Managers for their own service offerings.
  • We outline what Product Management is through a half-day training; it’s about products and services.
    • What is Product Management?
    • Examples & scenarios
    • Services versus products
    • Framework: strategy (benchmarking, roadmap, customer research), Roadmap, Customer Research
    • Concept
    • Deploy: support, training
    • Manage: Communications, Metrics, Vendor Mgmt, Billing
    • Retire: when and how to retire a product
    • The Product Management Game
    • First 90 days
    • Community of Practice and Additional Resources

The First 90 Days Managing a Product


  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • ID expectations and goals
  • Familiarize yourself with the product
  • Join existing projects
  • Begin the vendor relationship
  • Benchmarking
  • Users & community
  • Support
  • Develop listening posts
  • Build lists of ideas to explore

Continuing Adventures in Higher Ed & Technology