Boot Camp for BCC’s Scientists-in-the-Making
For two days in August, 50 science majors from Bronx Community College met in Meister Hall for an introduction to “The Growth Mindset” led by Dr. Miguel Powers from Fullerton College in California. “Their goal is not just to learn, but to learn how to learn better,” Professor Powers explained.
The academic “boot camp” was part of a $5 million grant from The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded to Bronx Community College in partnership with Lehman College for scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) that will benefit 575 aspiring scientists who are pursuing degrees in math and the sciences. A key element of the program is teaching the Growth Mindset, a theory that students who believe they can improve their intelligence through hard work and skill building do just that. Evidence indicates that Growth Mindset helps minorities and women to persist and overcome setbacks in their STEM studies.
“We started talking about ‘neural plasticity’ — the brain science behind challenge and responding to challenge and the notion that you can actually change the way your brain works,” said Professor Powers. “We went on to discuss things like habits of mind and specific study strategies. The students did a lot of collaborative activity-based learning, For example, they were asked to draw what their ideal education would look like. Then we shared and modeled those and we talked about having the students define their own purpose and goal for education.”
On the first day, the students were also addressed by representatives from student support services and the BCC Accelerated Study in Associate Programs team, followed by STEM faculty mentors from the College’s Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Physics and Math departments on Day Two.
Professor Powers’ own background is in English — but the techniques he teaches are not limited to any on subject. “In the state of California, we’ve had a community of practice with teams from different colleges in just about every discipline. The strategy is about learning that can be integrated into any curriculum at different levels. And we’ve focused our activities on the community college student.”
Based on the reaction from the students, the boot camp was a success. “They’ve come up to me and said that they felt the experience was really transformative, that their thinking was at a different level.”
Both the campus and an external evaluator will now track the students and support them with more Growth Mindset activities, a key element of the NSF grant.