Our Approach

Our Approach to College Transition | Mansfield HallMansfield Hall’s Four Core Approach addresses the essential domains of an authentic college experience and requisite skills needed for a successful transition to adulthood. It is our belief that each domain is interdependent on the other and thus, a student must develop skills in each core area to reach their true potential. A positive college experience must effectively balance the development of academic skills, independent living skills, social skills, and vocational skills. Therefore, we address these four core areas—Learning, Living, Giving, and Engaging, in all of our goal setting and programming.

Our highly trained and experienced team, works closely with each student to develop their skills in these core areas. Our Academic Directors, coaches, and writing specialists help students improve their academic and learning skills. Our Student Life Directors and Student Life Coordinators align with students to develop their independent living skills. Our Social Communication Specialists hone social skills and improve social cognition. Additionally, our Community Outreach Director works to connect students to the civic opportunities and community events.

Most importantly, our four core approach is grounded within an authentic context. Indeed, it is essential to teach social skills in an environment with increased opportunities for true relationships, academic skills while students have the opportunity to develop them in a college environment, independent living skills in an integrated community, and vocational skills through meaningful work. To that end, we firmly believe in the value of inclusion and diversity and are constantly working to integrate our students in the larger community. Moreover, Mansfield Hall’s Fellows Program provides the opportunity for traditional college students to live and participate in all of our programming and events to promote social modeling and natural supports.


The Mansfield Hall Pathway to Independence Model is designed to empower students to take ownership of their own lives through building their capacity for resiliency, self-determination, self-advocacy, advanced academic studies and independent life skills. It is a student-centered model grounded in community engagement and relationships based on active listening, emotional connection, partnership, and guided discovery. Our four core areas of focus for growth and development include living, learning, giving, and engaging. Our model is designed to work constructively with students at all stages of the change process.

Student Led Pathway to Independence Plan

The heart of our model is the Student Led Pathway to Independence Plan (known around Mansfield Hall as the SLP) created by a student with support from staff and overseen by the Director of Student Life. This document outlines a student’s goals in our four core areas. The goals will vary considerably depending on the student’s personal needs and readiness for change. This tool is used to strengthen our student’s capacity to take ownership of moving from pre-contemplation and contemplation to preparation, action, and integration of new skills and increased self-determination.

The process that this tool represents is guided by a student’s innate capacity and desire to grow, their participation in our community and curriculum, and our staff’s commitment to support students through positive, intentional action within the context of supportive relationships. While change takes time, it is the student’s growing core of self-determination and their increasing ability to solve their own challenges that fuels the process and allows them to be flexible, and empowered.

We believe goal setting is not only a path to skill building and creating a path in life, but is also a necessary tool for building resiliency in our students. It is our experience that when students meet their goals, whatever they may be, it gives them tremendous confidence in their capacity for success that translates across all aspects of their life.

Assessment Tools

We utilize a number of assessment tools at Mansfield Hall. The purpose of these assessments is threefold. First, the assessments provide us with valuable information on the individual strengths and weaknesses of each student. This information provides us with a present level of functioning and a foundation for individualized goal setting with a focus on independence. Second, these assessments are administered at least annually, providing us with valuable progress monitoring data. We use this data to help determine if our students are meeting their individual goals. Third, the assessments help us to determine what supports and services may be needed to most effectively meet each of our students’ needs. In a nutshell, we use the assessments to tell us where each student is right now, where they’re going in the future, what help they might need to get there and their progress along the way.

We use three primary assessment tools at Mansfield Hall:

The BRIEF (Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Functioning), a standardized tool for assessing executive functioning capacity.

Pathways to Independence Inventory, a tool created specifically for Mansfield Hall to help assess students independent and college life skills.

The OQ-45, a tool which captures secondary and tertiary gains made in social engagement and overall wellbeing.

These assessments are integrated into programming, demonstrating not only student development but also helping guide future areas for student growth.