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Addressing Achievement Gaps with Psychological Interventions

Authors:

Abstract

Carefully devised and delivered psychological interventions catalyze the effects of high-quality educational reforms, but don't replace them.
62 Kappan February 2013
David Yeager, Gregory Walton, and Geoffrey L. Cohen
R&D
Addressing achievement gaps with
psychological interventions
Carefully devised and delivered psychological interventions catalyze the effects
of high-quality educational reforms, but don’t replace them.
students can experience the class
very differently. Understanding
what school feels like for different
students can lead to nonobvious
but powerful interventions.
A common problem is that stu-
dents have beliefs and worries in
school that prevent them from
taking full advantage of learning
opportunities. For example, stu-
dents who struggle in math may
think that they are “dumb” or that
teachers or peers could see them as
such. Or girls in advanced math or
minority students in general may
wonder if other people will look at
them through the lens of a nega-
tive stereotype about their group
instead of judging them on their
merits.
These beliefs and worries don’t
reflect low self-esteem, insecu-
rity, or flaws in the student. From
the students’ viewpoint, they’re
often reasonable. If students are
aware that negative stereotypes
exist about their group, it makes
sense for them to be alert to the
possibility that stereotypes are in
play (Steele, Spencer, & Aronson,
2002). Likewise, if a student has
learned that many people see math
ability as something that you either
have or don’t, it makes sense for
that student to worry about being
seen as “dumb” in math. Below
we look at some of these beliefs in
more detail and describe how they
can be addressed.
Growth mindset. Carol
Dweck has shown that some stu-
dents think that people’s amount
of intelligence is fixed and cannot
change (2006). Students who have
Besides being researchers, each
of us is also a teacher. Like any-
one who has taught, we know the
feeling of failing to connect with
some students. It’s disheartening.
Before going into research, one of
us (Yeager) taught middle school.
He wanted to help kids in tough
straits get a good education. Yet,
looking at his gradebook at the
end of his first year teaching 7th-
grade English in Tulsa, Okla., he
saw large gains for more advan-
taged students but much smaller
gains for less advantaged students,
including racial and ethnic minor-
ity students. He thought that he’d
given these students just as much
attention, if not more, and that
he’d held them to equally high
standards. He’d given them plenty
of helpful critical feedback and
cared about their success. What
had gone wrong? And what could
be done differently?
Many teachers have such expe-
riences. Our research investigates
why, sometimes, no matter how
hard you work to create a good
lesson plan or provide high-qual-
ity feedback, some students don’t
stay as motivated or learn as much
as teachers would like. We also
look at what can be done to im-
prove their outcomes.
Take the student’s
perspective
When confronted with a prob-
lem in education — students fall-
ing behind in math, for example
— we tend to focus on what
teachers teach and how they teach
it. We tend to prescribe solu-
tions that take the perspective of
the teacher, like How can we teach
math differently?
That is an important perspec-
tive. But it can also help to adopt
the vantage point of a student.
How does the classroom look
to a student sitting at a desk in
the third row? What is he or she
concerned about? How does the
student feel about his or her po-
tential? Does the student feel
accepted by the teacher and fel-
low classmates? When you begin
with questions like these, a dif-
ferent picture emerges — one
that focuses on the psychology of
students. This approach suggests
that teachers should look beyond
how they communicate academic
content and try to understand
and, where appropriate, change
how students experience school.
Even when a classroom seems to
be the same for all students —
for instance, when all students
are treated similarly — different
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which is composed of the deans of the education schools/colleges at the following
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Berkeley, University of California, Los Angeles, University of Michigan, University of
Pennsylvania, and University of Wisconsin.
Teaching
students that
intelligence can
be developed
can help them
view struggles in
school not as a
threat but as an
opportunity to
grow and learn.
V94 N5 kappanmagazine.org 63
this belief — called a xed mind-
set — who then struggle in math
may fi nd it hard to stay motivated.
They may think, “I’ll never get
it” and avoid math. But counter-
ing this belief can have powerful
effects.
Teaching students that intel-
ligence can be developed — that,
like a muscle, it grows with hard
work and good strategies — can
help students view struggles in
school not as a threat (“Am I
dumb?”) but as an opportunity to
grow and learn (“This will make
my brain stronger!”). In rigorous
randomized experiments, even
relatively brief messages and ex-
ercises designed to reinforce this
growth mindset improved student
achievement over several months,
including the achievement of
low-income and minority stu-
dents (Aronson, Fried, & Good,
2002; Blackwell, Trzesniewski &
Dweck, 2007).
Buttressing belonging and
reducing stress. Worrying about
belonging — “Do I belong? Will
other students and teachers value
me?” — is a chronic stressor. Stu-
dents from historically marginal-
ized groups, like black and Latino
students or women in quantita-
tive fi elds, may worry more about
belonging. When students worry
about belonging and something
goes wrong — for instance, when
a student feels left out, criticized,
or disrespected — it can seem like
proof that they don’t belong. This
can increase stress and undermine
students’ motivation and engage-
ment over time.
Two types of interventions
can remedy these worries. First,
social-belonging interventions
convey the positive message that
almost all students worry about
belonging at some point (“your
concerns are not unique to you”)
and that these worries fade with
time (“things will get better”).
Such interventions can require
as little as an hour to administer,
and, by using persuasive delivery
mechanisms that quickly change
students’ beliefs, they can be suc-
cessful. One such intervention
improved minority college stu-
dents’ grades for three years with
no reinforcement from research-
ers, halving the achievement gap
(Walton & Cohen, 2011).
Second, values affi rmation
interventions give students op-
portunities to refl ect on personal
values that bring them a sense of
belonging and identity, such as re-
lationships with friends and fam-
ily, religion, or artistic pursuits.
Students refl ect on these values
through structured in-class writ-
ing assignments timed to coincide
with stressors throughout the
year. These interventions shore
up belonging in school and boost
the GPAs of students contending
with negative stereotypes in both
adolescence and college.
High standards and assur-
ance. Many students, but espe-
cially students who face negative
stereotypes, worry that a teacher
could be biased or unfair. They
may wonder if critical feedback is
a genuine attempt to help them or
refl ects bias against their group —
something understandable given
the historical marginalization of
their group. Even a little mistrust
can harm a student’s learning.
But when minority students were
encouraged to see critical feed-
back as a sign of their teacher’s
high standards and his or her
belief in their potential to reach
those standards, they no longer
perceived bias (Cohen, Steele,
& Ross, 1999). In rigorous fi eld
studies, interventions of this sort
boosted urban black youths’ GPAs
and reduced the black-white
achievement gap several months
after the intervention (Yeager et
al., 2012).
Psychological interventions
aren’t “magic”
Understanding what students
worry about in school can help us
develop targeted interventions.
These interventions can require
only one or several class periods
and modest resources. Sometimes
they can even be delivered over
the Internet (see www.perts.net).
Yet all of these interventions have
been experimentally evaluated
and can have powerful effects on
students’ grades and test scores.
But they are not “magic.” They
are not worksheets or phrases that
will universally or automatically
raise grades. Psychological inter-
ventions will help students only
when they are delivered in ways
that change how students think
and feel in school, and when stu-
dent performance suffers in part
from psychological factors rather
than entirely from other problems
like poverty or neighborhood
trauma. That means interventions
depend critically on the school
context, as we elaborate below.
How psychological
interventions work
Psychological interventions
raise student achievement by:
Changing students’ subjective
experience in school — what
school feels like for them,
their construals of themselves
and the classroom;
Leveraging powerful but psy-
chologically wise tactics that
deliver the treatment mes-
sage effectively without
generating problematic side
effects like stigmatizing re-
cipients; and
Tapping into self-reinforcing
or recursive processes that
sustain the effects of early
interventions (Garcia & Co-
hen, 2012; Yeager & Wal-
ton, 2011).
Comments?
Like PDK at www.
facebook.com/pdkintl
DAVID YEAGER (yeager@psy.utexas.
edu) is an assistant professor of de-
velopmental psychology at University
of Texas, Austin, Texas. GREGORY
WALTON (gwalton@stanford.edu) is an
assistant professor of psychology and
GEOFFREY L. COHEN (glc@stanford.
edu) is a professor of education and
psychology at Stanford University,
Stanford, Calif.
Stealthy approaches don’t
feel controlling and don’t
stigmatize students as in need
of help, factors that could do
more harm than good.
64 Kappan February 2013
R&D
ships in school, these become
sources of support and learning
that promote feelings of belong-
ing and academic success. When
students achieve success beyond
what they thought possible, their
beliefs about their own agency
often improve, leading them to
become more invested in school,
further improving performance,
and reinforcing their belief in
their potential for growth. As stu-
dents perform well, they’re placed
in higher-level classes — gateways
that raise expectations, expose
them to high-achieving peers, and
put them on a trajectory of suc-
cess. A well-timed, well-targeted
psychological intervention can
improve students’ relationships,
experiences, and performance at
a critical stage and thus improve
their trajectory through their
school careers (Yeager & Wal-
ton, 2011). It is thus essential to
intervene early, before a negative
recursive process has gained mo-
mentum, if we are to improve stu-
dents’ outcomes over long periods
(Garcia & Cohen, 2012).
Education occurs in a complex
system. If students are to suc-
ceed, they need both learning
opportunities and openness to
these opportunities. As a result,
it would be absurd to replace tra-
ditional educational reforms, like
improving curricula, pedagogy, or
teacher quality, with psychologi-
cal interventions. Indeed, making
students optimistic about school
without actually giving them op-
portunities to learn could not only
be ineffective but counterproduc-
tive. Psychological interventions
work only because they catalyze
the student’s potential and the
classroom resources for growth.
Use psychological
interventions thoughtfully
Excellent teachers already use
versions of the techniques dis-
cussed here. But, when trying
to improve those techniques by
applying psychological interven-
tions, practitioners will want to be
thoughtful. Psychology is subtle,
and you can make many mistakes
when trying to change it (believe
us — we’ve made them).
approaches don’t feel controlling
and don’t stigmatize students as
in need of help, factors that could
do more harm than good (Ross &
Nisbett, 1991).
Often psychological interven-
tions are brief — not extensive
or repeated. Excessive repetition
risks sending the message that
students are seen as needing help
or may undermine the credibil-
ity of a reassuring message (as in
“thou doth protest too much”). In
this way, delivering psychologi-
cal interventions differs markedly
from teaching academic content.
Academic content is complex and
taught layer on layer: The more
math students are taught, the
more math they learn. Changing
students’ psychology, by contrast,
can call for a light touch.
Recursive processes. What can
seem especially mysterious is how
a brief or one-shot psychological
intervention can generate effects
that persist over long periods.
For instance, people may assume
that an intervention must remain
on students’ minds to retain its
effects. But, like many experi-
ences, a psychological interven-
tion will become less salient as it
recedes in time. A key to under-
standing the long-lasting effects
of psychological interventions
is to understand how they tap
into self-reinforcing processes
in schools — like how students
make friends and then feel more
confi dent they belong, how they
build relationships with teachers
who give them more support and
encouragement, and how they
simply feel more confi dent in
their ability to learn and succeed.
In education, early success be-
gets more success. As students
study, learn, and build academic
skills, they’re better prepared to
learn and perform in the future.
As students form better relation-
Construal. Each psychologi-
cal intervention began by under-
standing what school feels like
to students. These interventions
may seem small to outside observ-
ers, and often they are in terms
of time and cost relative to other
school reforms. But to a student
who worries that a poor test score
means that she is stupid or could
be seen as stupid, learning that
the brain can grow and form new
connections when challenged, or
being told that a teacher believes
that she can meet a higher stan-
dard, can be powerful. Despite its
subtlety — or perhaps because of it
— the message assuages fears that
might stifl e learning.
Psychologically wise deliv-
ery. Psychological interventions
change how students think or feel
about school or about themselves
in school. If they don’t deliver
their message in a way that leads
to these changes, they won’t be
effective. Each intervention used
a delivery mechanism that drew
on research into how to make
messages stick. Rather than sim-
ply presenting an appeal to a stu-
dent, each intervention enlisted
students to actively generate the
intervention itself. For instance,
one delivery mechanism involves
asking students to write letters to
younger students advocating for
the intervention message (e.g.,
“Tell a younger student why the
brain can grow”). As research on
the “saying-is-believing” effect
shows, generating and advocating
a persuasive message to a recep-
tive audience is a powerful means
of persuasion (Aronson, 1999).
Similarly, rather than telling stu-
dents that they are successfully
meeting important values in their
lives, values affi rmations have stu-
dents self-generate ways in which
this is the case.
Although such delivery mecha-
nisms are psychologically power-
ful, they are also stealthy, which
may increase their effectiveness.
None of the interventions expose
students to a persuasive appeal
(e.g., “You should know that your
teachers are not biased”) or tell
them they are receiving “an inter-
vention” to help them. Stealthy
One mistake is to encourage
students to give “more effort”
when they really need not only
to apply more effort but also
change strategy.
V94 N5 kappanmagazine.org 65
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the junior high school transition: A
longitudinal study and an intervention.
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Harber, K.D., Gorman, J.L., Gengaro,
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person and the situation: Perspectives
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(Ed.), Advances in experimental social
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A brief social-belonging intervention
improves academic and health
outcomes of minority students.
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Garcia, J., Pebley, P., & Cohen, G.L.
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such overpraising risks worsening
student psychology by convey-
ing low expectations or by send-
ing the message that ability rather
than effort and strategy matter
the most.
Good teachers often know the
importance of belonging, growth,
and positive affirmation. But they
may not know the best ways to
bring these about. Well-intended
practices can sometimes even do
more harm than good. At the
same time, researchers may not
always know the best way to make
their interventions speak to stu-
dents in a given class. And many
of the interventions developed
here were borne of observations
of real-world success stories —
educators who boosted the per-
formance and life chances of their
at-risk youth. This is why, going
forward, we believe it is critical
for educators and practitioners to
work together to develop ways to
change students’ psychology in
school for the better.
Conclusion
Psychological interventions
complement — and do not re-
place — traditional educational
reforms. They don’t teach stu-
dents academic content or skills,
restructure schools, or improve
teaching. A psychological inter-
vention will never teach a student
to spell or do fractions. Instead,
it will allow students to seize op-
portunities to learn. Psychological
and structural interventions when
combined could go a long way
toward solving the nation’s educa-
tional problems.
K
References
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C. (2002). Reducing the effects of
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Blackwell, L.A., Trzesniewski, K.H.,
& Dweck, C.S. (2007). Theories of
One mistake is to encourage
students to give “more effort”
when they really need not only
apply more effort but also change
strategy. Effort is necessary but it
is not the sole ingredient for suc-
cess. When confronted with con-
tinued failures despite heightened
effort, students might conclude
that they can’t succeed, sapping
their motivation. Effective growth
mindset interventions challenge
the myth that raw ability matters
most by teaching the fuller for-
mula for success: effort + strate-
gies + help from others.
Second, any psychological in-
tervention can be implemented
poorly. The devil is in the details:
An intervention to instill belong-
ing, a growth mindset, or a sense
of affirmation hinges on subtle
and not-so-subtle procedural
craft. Classroom activities that
promote a rah-rah ethos or that
express platitudes (“everyone be-
longs here”) but don’t make stu-
dents feel personally valued and
respected will fail. Bolstering a
sense of belonging for poor-per-
forming students requires estab-
lishing credible norms that worry
about belonging are common
and tend to fade with time — not
rah-rah boosterism. Similarly,
values affirmation exercises might
backfire if they’re delivered in a
cursory way or seen as something
that the teacher cares little about.
A third example of well-
intended but unwise strategies
for changing student psychol-
ogy involves teacher feedback.
Many teachers are tempted to
overpraise students for mediocre
performance, especially students
who face negative stereotypes, so
as to appear unbiased and boost
student self-esteem (Harber, Gor-
man, Gengaro, & Butisingh, in
press). Sometimes, teachers go
out of their way to praise student
ability on classroom tasks. But
A well-timed,
well-targeted
psychological
intervention
can improve
students’
relationships,
experiences,
and
performance
at a critical
stage and thus
improve their
trajectory
through their
school careers.
Psychological interventions
complement — and do not
replace — traditional
educational reforms.
... Furthermore, when teachers are low in adaptive resources (i.e., self-efficacy) (Fernet et al., 2017), they are also more susceptible to experiencing lower job satisfaction, higher stress and burnout, and an increased likelihood of leaving the profession (Aloe et al., 2014;Brouwers & Tomic, 1999;Fernet et al., 2012;Greenberg et al., 2016;Montgomery & Rupp, 2005). Conversely, adaptive interpretations of stressors (i.e., believing that professional setbacks and challenges are temporary, common, and due to controllable external factors rather than personal deficits) bolster self-efficacy (Cohen & Sherman, 2014;Yeager et al., 2013;Yeager & Walton, 2011) and motivation (Lin & Gorrell, 1998;Tuckman & Sexton, 1990) and increase willingness to improve (Runhaar et al., 2010;Thoonen et al., 2011). In turn, these factors can increase job satisfaction (Trentham et al., 1985), lower occupational stress and burnout (Parkay et al., 1988), and promote retention in teaching (Coladarci, 1992;Glickman & Tamashiro, 1982;Rots et al., 2007). ...
... Wise interventions also tend to use a stealthy delivery approach (Yeager et al., 2013), meaning that individuals are unaware they are in an "intervention." The exercises are typically framed as opportunities for researchers to learn from their expertise, rather than as researchers attempting to help them. ...
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... Students' achievement, grades, and feelings of contentment are all affected by their teachers' interactions with them (Roblyer & Ekhaml, 2000). Students' academic performance may decline if they do not feel included in their academic community, which is fostered through regular academic, and social interactions (Yeager et al., 2013). According to recent research, the lack of face-to-face interaction during the Covid-19 pandemic is not only associated with a feeling of isolation, but may also be a substantial source of stress for students (Son et al., 2020;Dumitrache et al., 2021). ...
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Disparities in student outcomes, including gendered performance differences, are widespread in introductory physics and other STEM courses. STEM education researchers have investigated many course and student factors that could contribute to these inequities, including class size, test formats, assignment weightings, and students’ sense of belonging. These inequities are often largest in the timed, multiple-choice, high-stakes exams that characterize so many traditional introductory STEM courses. Time pressure is widely believed to influence student outcomes on these exams, reducing overall performance and perhaps exaggerating widespread group performance disparities. Reducing time pressure for students by providing more test-taking time is a small, structural change that could have large impacts on student performance and could differentially affect students. To explore this possibility, we offered all 596 students in our introductory physics course a 50% extension in test-taking time and collected data on exam performance, student demographics, and the time each student took to complete each exam. We made careful comparisons of student performance to historical data, across demographic groups, and across time usage on the exams using both raw exam scores and a “Better Than Expected” measure that compares student performance in the course under study to their own performance in other courses. While students overall scored slightly higher with extended exam time, we found that extended time did not reduce the well-established disparities in student outcomes categorized by sex, race/ethnicity, or college generation status present in our introductory physics course. These findings both indicate that extending exam time is not a simple fix for disparities in student outcomes and reinforce that systemic changes towards more authentic assessments of STEM knowledge and capabilities are imperative.
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The mentorship experience in higher education may be viewed as a holistic support system for many students who report not receiving adequate academic and social support during their enrollment in a higher education institution, which could positively impact their abilities to succeed in college (Astin, 1984; Hurtado amp; Carter, 1997; Nora, 1987; Nora & Crisp, 2007; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991). The purpose of this quantitative study was to examine student-teacher mentorships in higher education and its influence on educational outcomes using undergraduate and graduate students at Rhode Island College. In this study, I hypothesized that students who identify as having a mentor will report more positive school engagement and membership in their learning experience than students who do not have a mentor (Hypothesis 1). I also hypothesized that other variables will impact positive school engagement and membership for students who do not identify as having a mentor (Hypothesis 2). A sample of participants (N = 262) recruited for this study completed a self-report demographic questionnaire, the College Student Mentoring Scale, the College Student Experience Questionnaire, the Psychological Sense of School Membership, and the Belief in the Utility of Education. The measures assessed students’ perception of their college experience, faculty mentorship, school engagement, and school membership. Results indicated that formal mentorship did lead to better academic performance, attendance, and students’ satisfaction at the institution. Graduate students overall reported lower student engagement and school membership than their undergraduate counterparts. The current study is one of the first to examine the impact faculty mentorships have on both undergraduate and graduate students while assessing the same constructs in one study and considering factors such as student engagement and school membership.
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В информационном бюллетене анализируются причины академической неуспешности детей, возможности школ и семей для ее преодоления. Исследование основано на данных опроса учителей и родителей учащихся 2-11-х классов, проведенного в рамках Мониторинга экономики образования в 2020/2021 году.
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Research in social psychology and education proposes that adopting a growth mindset of intelligence is an important mediator for student’s wellbeing and performance at school. As a consequence, wise interventions have been developed to target student mindsets and change their beliefs about how much their intelligence can grow with training and experience. However, the efficacy of mindset interventions are much debated as effects sizes vary a lot across studies. Here we hypothesized that the study environment, and in particular the teacher’s mindset about intelligence is an important moderator of mindset intervention efficacy. To causally test this hypothesis, six middle schools from underprivileged neighborhoods in the Paris area in France were randomly assigned to a no intervention condition, a condition with mindset interventions delivered only to the students, and a condition with mindset interventions for teachers and students. The result showed that the combined teacher and student mindset intervention condition was most efficient to increase the student’s growth mindset. This finding indicated that a short and easy to implement mindset intervention to teachers can help students develop their growth mindset.
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This research tested whether public school teachers display the positive feedback bias, wherein Whites give more praise and less criticism to minorities than to fellow Whites for equivalent work. It also tested whether teachers lacking in school-based social support (i.e., support from fellow teachers and school administrators) are more likely to display the positive bias and whether the positive feedback bias applies to Latinos as well as to Blacks. White middle school and high school teachers from 2 demographically distinct public school districts gave feedback on a poorly written essay supposedly authored by a Black, Latino, or White student. Teachers in the Black student condition showed the positive bias, but only if they lacked school-based social support. Teachers in the Latino student condition showed the positive bias regardless of school-based support. These results indicate that the positive feedback bias may contribute to the insufficient challenge that undermines minority students' academic achievement. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Recent randomized experiments have found that seemingly “small” social-psychological interventions in education—that is, brief exercises that target students’ thoughts, feelings, and beliefs in and about school—can lead to large gains in student achievement and sharply reduce achievement gaps even months and years later. These interventions do not teach students academic content but instead target students’ psychology, such as their beliefs that they have the potential to improve their intelligence or that they belong and are valued in school. When social-psychological interventions have lasting effects, it can seem surprising and even “magical,” leading people either to think of them as quick fixes to complicated problems or to consider them unworthy of serious consideration. The present article discourages both responses. It reviews the theoretical basis of several prominent social-psychological interventions and emphasizes that they have lasting effects because they target students’ subjective experiences in school, because they use persuasive yet stealthy methods for conveying psychological ideas, and because they tap into recursive processes present in educational environments. By understanding psychological interventions as powerful but context-dependent tools, educational researchers will be better equipped to take them to scale. This review concludes by discussing challenges to scaling psychological interventions and how these challenges may be overcome.
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Two studies examined the response of Black and White students to critical feedback presented either alone or buffered with additional information to ameliorate its negative effects. Black students who received unbuffered critical feedback responded less favorably than White students both in ratings of the evaluator’s bias and in measures of task motivation. By contrast, when the feedback was accompanied both by an invocation of high standards and by an assurance of the student’s capacity to reach those standards, Black students responded as positively as White students and both groups reported enhanced identification with relevant skills and careers. This “wise,” two-faceted intervention proved more effective than buffering criticism either with performance praise (Study 1) or with an invocation of high standards alone (Study 2). The role of stigma in mediating responses to critical feedback, and the implications of our results for mentoring and other teacher-student interactions, are explored.
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A brief intervention aimed at buttressing college freshmen's sense of social belonging in school was tested in a randomized controlled trial (N = 92), and its academic and health-related consequences over 3 years are reported. The intervention aimed to lessen psychological perceptions of threat on campus by framing social adversity as common and transient. It used subtle attitude-change strategies to lead participants to self-generate the intervention message. The intervention was expected to be particularly beneficial to African-American students (N = 49), a stereotyped and socially marginalized group in academics, and less so to European-American students (N = 43). Consistent with these expectations, over the 3-year observation period the intervention raised African Americans' grade-point average (GPA) relative to multiple control groups and halved the minority achievement gap. This performance boost was mediated by the effect of the intervention on subjective construal: It prevented students from seeing adversity on campus as an indictment of their belonging. Additionally, the intervention improved African Americans' self-reported health and well-being and reduced their reported number of doctor visits 3 years postintervention. Senior-year surveys indicated no awareness among participants of the intervention's impact. The results suggest that social belonging is a psychological lever where targeted intervention can have broad consequences that lessen inequalities in achievement and health.
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Two studies explored the role of implicit theories of intelligence in adolescents' mathematics achievement. In Study 1 with 373 7th graders, the belief that intelligence is malleable (incremental theory) predicted an upward trajectory in grades over the two years of junior high school, while a belief that intelligence is fixed (entity theory) predicted a flat trajectory. A mediational model including learning goals, positive beliefs about effort, and causal attributions and strategies was tested. In Study 2, an intervention teaching an incremental theory to 7th graders (N=48) promoted positive change in classroom motivation, compared with a control group (N=43). Simultaneously, students in the control group displayed a continuing downward trajectory in grades, while this decline was reversed for students in the experimental group.
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African American college students tend to obtain lower grades than their White counterparts, even when they enter college with equivalent test scores. Past research suggests that negative stereotypes impugning Black students' intellectual abilities play a role in this underperformance. Awareness of these stereotypes can psychologically threaten African Americans, a phenomenon known as “stereotype threat” (Steele & Aronson, 1995), which can in turn provoke responses that impair both academic performance and psychological engagement with academics. An experiment was performed to test a method of helping students resist these responses to stereotype threat. Specifically, students in the experimental condition of the experiment were encouraged to see intelligence—the object of the stereotype—as a malleable rather than fixed capacity. This mind-set was predicted to make students' performances less vulnerable to stereotype threat and help them maintain their psychological engagement with academics, both of which could help boost their college grades. Results were consistent with predictions. The African American students (and, to some degree, the White students) encouraged to view intelligence as malleable reported greater enjoyment of the academic process, greater academic engagement, and obtained higher grade point averages than their counterparts in two control groups.
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In contrast with traditional, direct techniques of persuasion (advertising, political rhetoric, etc.), self-persuasion is indirect and entails placing people in situations where they are motivated to persuade themselves to change their own attitudes or behavior. We find that where important attitudes, behavior, or lifestyle changes are concerned, self-persuasion strategies produce more powerful and more long-lasting effects than do direct techniques of persuasion. This is primarily due to the fact that in direct persuasion, members of an audience are constantly aware of the fact that someone is trying (or has tried) to influence them. In a self-persuasion situation, people are convinced that the motivation for change comes from within. In the present address, the author reviews a range of his research on self-persuasion and underscores its relevance to current societal problems. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)