Case Study

Cultivating equitable learning environments through faculty growth culture practices at California Community Colleges


in Workshops
In Communities of Practice


Previous research and initiatives by the Equity Accelerator (EA) have demonstrated the importance of faculty mindset on student experiences and outcomes: when faculty create Cultures of Growth in their classrooms, students achieve better academic and psychological outcomes. Our collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, focusing on mindset as a lever for reducing equity gaps and fostering positive student outcomes in California Community Colleges, underscored a noteworthy misalignment between the mindset beliefs faculty hold and the mindset messages that they communicate to their student. While faculty self-reported possessing more of a growth mindset, students perceived them to hold more fixed mindsets. This assessment highlights the importance of faculty having ways to effectively align and communicate their beliefs and mindsets through their practices and messages. How can we leverage EA’s approach to establishing and sustaining Cultures of Growth to support California Community Colleges’ faculty?


California Acceleration Project sought EA’s assistance to help community college faculty and staff with professional development to create more equitable classroom learning environments. We developed and evaluated three different professional development approaches, grounded in EA’s evidence-based, field-tested classroom practice resources. Data was collected through survey responses from participating faculty, their students, and aggregate grade and outcome data from participating colleges.

Professional Development approaches:

  1. Professional Development Workshops
    In Spring 2022, 143 faculty from 68 California Community Colleges participated in at least one of three 1.5 hour virtual workshops.
  2. EA-Led Community of Practice
    In Fall 2022, 28 faculty from 6 colleges participated in a semester-long Community of Practice (CoP), led by EA, focused on creating and sustaining Cultures of Growth in their classrooms. A Community of Practice is a group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly. Surveys were distributed to 2,350 students enrolled in CoP participants’ courses, with 870 students completing at least one survey.
  3. Locally-Led Communities of Practice
    In Spring 2023, faculty from 3 of the 8 teams who participated in the EA-led CoP developed their own local CoPs, recruiting colleagues from their departments to participate. A total of 28 faculty participated, including 11 who also participated in the EA-led CoP.


Impact on Students

  • When students perceive they are in a Culture of Growth, they have a better classroom experience and greater academic success
  • Students infer a classroom’s Culture of Growth based on their professor’s practices not their professors’ self reported mindset

Consistent with our needs assessment, the student surveys affirmed that when students perceive themselves in a Culture of Growth, they experience a more positive classroom environment and achieve greater academic success. Students who recognized growth culture practices in their professors reported a better overall experience in their courses. This positive experience was also linked to an anticipation of higher/greater success in their course. Notably, students from traditionally disadvantaged demographic groups showed similar or larger effects, indicating that the adoption of growth culture teaching practices benefits all students, especially those traditionally underserved in higher education.

At first, I wasn’t sure how well I’d perform in this class, but my professor has instilled a confidence in myself that I’ve never been able to have before. At the beginning of the term, I feared I’d fail math again, but my professor changed my way of thinking and provided so much support; my fears are almost gone.

Student Response

The data also shows that students gauged a classroom’s Culture of Growth based on their professor’s practices rather than their self-reported mindset. Students' perception of their professor’s growth culture practices was positively correlated with the professors' actual use of growth culture practices, such as acknowledging and communicating the value of diversity in their course and broader field, normalizing the use of academic resources as a standard part of succeeding and encouraging help-seeking behaviors when students found themselves struggling with course material. This reiterates the importance of faculty effectively communicating their growth mindset beliefs through policies, practices, and norms.

Impact on Faculty

  • Evidence-based, field-tested professional development opportunities effectively support faculty in creating Cultures of Growth
  • Colleges and colleagues play a critical role in supporting faculty as they sustain and scale their Cultures of Growth

Our professional development opportunities were found to effectively support faculty in creating Cultures of Growth in their courses. Surveys of participating faculty indicated that EA’s workshops and CoPs led to increased desire and intentions to use our evidence-based practices. These values were even higher for those who participated in both types of CoPs, pointing to potential increased benefits of recurring and collaborative professional development opportunities. Faculty across all approaches reported overwhelmingly positive experiences and expressed a willingness to recommend these opportunities to colleagues.

It was eye-opening to realize that my beliefs may not be perceived correctly by my students.

Workshop Attendee

Community college faculty participants also took initiatives to sustain and expand practices post the EA-led CoP. Fifty percent of faculty teams formed and facilitated new local CoPs with department colleagues, and 94% of participants in these local CoPs planned to continue their involvement and use of EA’s growth culture practice resources. While faculty expressed high interest in continuing their engagement, they also acknowledged that sustaining engagement requires support from colleges to address challenges such as competing professional demands and teaching workload demands. Support from the institutions and colleagues play a critical role in helping faculty sustain and scale their Cultures of Growth. 

It’s been great to have a dedicated time each week when we could share our experiences and challenges related to teaching, brainstorm solutions, discuss various high-impact teaching practices, and overall support each other in a positive and inclusive way.

Community of Practice Participant

This project has shown that it is possible to create more equitable classroom experiences and academic success for students in community college settings. Low-lift, high-impact practices to foster Cultures of Growth provide faculty with resources to change the culture of their classrooms and to address the mismatch between faculty and student perceptions. As the largest higher education system in the country, this example of the California Community Colleges serves as a model for how other community college systems can effectively support, sustain, and scale Cultures of Growth.

Read the Report

Download the report Fostering Faculty Growth Culture Practices in California Community Colleges: Summary Report for the full findings, data, and citations

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