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Minding and mending the gap: Social psychological interventions to reduce educational disparities



Background Achievement gaps continue to garner a great deal of attention both in academic and in popular circles. Many students continue to struggle despite broad educational reforms aimed at narrowing these gaps in learning and performance.AimsIn this article, we review a number of social psychological interventions that show promise in reducing gaps in achievement, not by addressing structural barriers to achievement, but by helping students cope with threats to their identity that impair intellectual functioning and motivation. For example, interventions involving meditation, role models, emotional reappraisal, growth mindsets, imagining possible selves, self-affirmations, belongingness and cooperative learning have been shown to ameliorate threats to identity and raise achievement. We describe and evaluate these social psychological interventions.ArgumentsMany achievement gaps involve a psychological predicament: a threat to one's social identity or to one's sense of belonging. Students' implicit theories – how they mind the gap – can act as barriers to their success. By helping students cope with these threats, these theory-based interventions represent a genuine advance in the way schools may reduce gaps in achievement.Conclusion These interventions show how students' educational success depends partly on fluid aspects of context – how tasks are framed, who else is in the room, or what they believe about intelligence. Because of this fluidity, these interventions may not work in all settings. Achievement gaps are ultimately caused by a variety of factors, both objective and subjective that produce inequality. The research reviewed here suggests that even without changes in objective barriers to success, brief psychological interventions can narrow what many see as intractable gaps in academic achievement.
British Journal of Educational Psychology (2015), 85, 1–18
©2015 The British Psychological Society
Annual Review
Minding and mending the gap: Social psychological
interventions to reduce educational disparities
Brian Spitzer* and Joshua Aronson
New York University, USA
Background. Achievement gaps continue to garner a great deal of attention both in
academic and in popular circles. Many students continue to struggle despite broad
educational reforms aimed at narrowing these gaps in learning and performance.
Aims. In this article, we review a number of social psychological interventions that show
promise in reducing gaps in achievement, not by addressing structural barriers to
achievement, but by helping students cope with threats to their identity that impair
intellectual functioning and motivation. For example, interventions involving meditation,
role models, emotional reappraisal, growth mindsets, imagining possible selves, self-
affirmations, belongingness and cooperative learning have been shown to ameliorate
threats to identity and raise achievement. We describe and evaluate these social
psychological interventions.
Arguments. Many achievement gaps involve a psychological predicament: a threat to
one’s social identity or to one’s sense of belonging. Students’ implicit theories how they
mind the gap can act as barriers to their success. By helping students cope with these
threats, these theory-based interventions represent a genuine advance in the way schools
may reduce gaps in achievement.
Conclusion. These interventions show how students’ educational success depends
partly on fluid aspects of context how tasks are framed, who else is in the room, or what
they believe about intelligence. Because of this fluidity, these interventions may not work
in all settings. Achievement gaps are ultimately caused by a variety of factors, both
objective and subjective that produce inequality. The research reviewed here suggests
that even without changes in objective barriers to success, brief psychological
interventions can narrow what many see as intractable gaps in academic achievement.
Gaps in school performance have long been a concern in academic as well as in popular
circles. One is hard pressed to find a piece in academic or popular writings in the past
century that does not use the word crisis to describe inequities in educational attainment.
Still, achievement gaps are generating unprecedented anxiety in the current era, where
well-developed cognitive skills are necessary for survival in a competitive global economy,
which increasingly require a higher education degree (Darling-Hammond, 2010;
Friedman, 2005). Every 3 years, the Programme for International Student Assessment
(PISA) tests the knowledge and skills of students in participating nations within the
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), ranking students on
*Correspondence should be addressed to Brian Spitzer, New York University, Steinhardt 196 Mercer, 8th Floor, New York, NY
10012, USA (email:
mathematics, science, and reading performance. The results, which show United States
and United Kingdom students to score near the middle of the pack, are cause for concern
that both countries are losing their competitive edge to better scoring countries like
Finland and China (OECD, 2012). PISA scores for both countries have remained largely
stagnant over the years, although US students declined markedly in mathematics
performance, falling from 25th place in 2009 to 31st place in 2012 (OECD, 2012). The
United Kingdom is ranked 23rd for reading, 26th for mathematics, and 20th for science. In
2009, it was placed 25th, 28th, and 16th, respectively. The American pattern of stagnation
and slippage is notable in that it occurred during a massive push for academic
improvement under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, a testing and accountability
regime, which promised to make all children proficient in basic skills by 2014. With
aspirations nowhere near as unrealistic, the United Kingdom has been similarly investing
in new reading and numeracy tests, new funding for education, and increased
accountability pressure on schools through ranking (e.g., secondary school banding)
since 2009 (Darling-Hammond, 2010).
Within their borders, both the United Kingdom and the United States share another
problem serious gaps between racial groups and/or inequity of wealth and resources
(Department for Education & Skills, 2005; OECD, 2012). For example, according to
census data in the United Kingdom, only 38% of students eligible for free lunch earned at
least five grades in between an A and a C in their General Certificate of Secondary
Education (GCSE) scores, compared to 65% of their wealthier counterparts (Bush, 2005).
In the United States, achievement and test score gaps continue to persist between African
Americans and Whites, Hispanics and Whites, and Native Americans and Whites (U.S.
Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2003).
Why do the United Kingdom and United States stagnate while other nations like
Finland and China improve? One clear reason is the widening wealth gap in these
countries and the effects of this widening gap on achievement. For example, in the United
States, the achievement gap between those in the 90th percentile of wealth and those in
10th percentile has grown over the past five decades, and now is double the gap between
African Americans and Whites, which, itself, stopped closing after two decades of
antipoverty measures (Reardon, 2011). The success of countries such as Finland, who
used tax policy to reduce the impact of poverty on schooling, suggests that significant
redistribution of wealth could narrow our academic achievement gaps as well.
Minding the gaps
The failure of UK and US policies and the success of Finland’s supports the school of
thought that holds that improving learning and motivation requires increased funding to
meet the needs for improved nutrition, early child care, and quality early home
environment (Nisbett, 2009; Nisbett et al., 2012; Protzko, Aronson, & Blair, 2013;
Ravitch, 2012a,b, 2014; Rothstein, 2004). There are two other prominent schools of
thought both of which disdain public spending and wealth redistribution but differ in
their rationales. Genetic determinists conceptualize achievement gaps as merely
reflecting group differences in endowed, fixed, intellectual ability (e.g., Herrnstein &
Murray, 1994). As such, they see limited value in schooling or other interventions, like
college, for at least half the population, which is, after all, below average in intelligence
(Murray, 2008). Culturists, by contrast, tend to blame gaps on the values, habits, and
lacking work ethic among low-achieving children, their parents, and their teachers
2Brian Spitzer and Joshua Aronson
(Thernstrom & Thernstom, 2004). In this view, bad teachers should be fired and parents
need to work harder, turn off the television, and raise expectations for their children. This
is the view that best represents the theory of change in the No Child Left Behind policy, yet
a decade of meager improvements despite intense pressures has done little to convince
culturists that pushing harder will not work. Genetic determinists see the lack of gap
closing as evidence that nothing will close it (Murray, 2008), whereas others insist that
nothing can work without significantly greater investments (Ravitch, 2014). Whichever
the camp, educational stagnation has confirmed a general pessimism about our ability to
improve learning among the disadvantaged (Kirp, 2013).
In this review, we argue that complete pessimism is unwarranted. Although
formidable structural and cultural barriers to universal proficiency certainly exist, there
are also psychological barriers to closing gaps that need to be recognized and addressed.
Quite often psychological factors can be intervened upon with far greater ease and better
effects than broad, expensive policy approaches required to change the culture of
underperforming groups. A more useful and realistic way of minding the gap
acknowledges the highly social and psychological nature of learning, performance, and
motivation (Lieberman, 2013; Vygotsky, 1978).
It may be precisely the failure to be mindful of the psychological consequences of high-
stakes testing and accountability that doomed the American reforms (Aronson, 2004;
Ravitch, 2014). Although some schools improved, threatening educators with negative
consequences often increased psychological and social stresses, particularly among
schools serving the minority groups that the policies were designed to help (Amrein &
Berliner, 2003; Madaus & Clarke, 2001). For example, a study of high-stakes testing in
California found that attaching high stakes to a high school exit examination widened the
gaps between minority and majority students and lowered the minority student
graduation rates substantially (Reardon, Atteberry, Arshan, & Kurlander, 2009). Another
found that sanctions corrupted the behaviour of adults, who cheated by excluding African
Americans, Hispanics, and other students expected to perform poorly from taking the test
(Vasquez-Heilig & Darling-Hammond, 2008). The consequences of this kind of
exclusionary treatment can be particularly dire for males, who are more prone to drop
out and become jobless or imprisoned (Gregory, Skiba, & Noguera, 2010; Holzman, 2010).
How we mind the gap can have serious consequences.
Despite the intense focus on income inequality, gaps based on race, ethnicity, and
gender persist and continue to concern educators. The racial gaps that narrowed with the
great society reforms of the 1960s and 1970s stopped narrowing in the 1980s (Magnuson
& Waldfogel, 2005). Gender gaps also shrunk considerably in science technology,
engineering, and mathematics (STEM), but remain significant in the subfields of computer
science, physics, and electrical engineering, which have remained starkly male dominated
despite efforts to encourage girls into these fields (Halpern, Aronson et al., 2007; Halpern,
Benbow et al., 2007). There is scant agreement on the evolutionary mechanism by which
males would be granted a biological superiority in these fields; early experiences and
preferences are generally considered more likely causes for the gender gap than biology
(Ceci & Williams, 2010; Halpern, Aronson et al., 2007; Halpern, Benbow et al., 2007;
Nisbett et al., 2012). Female students tend to earn better grades than males do in most
academic courses and have better writing and communication skills than boys have
(Halpern, Aronson et al., 2007; Halpern, Benbow et al., 2007; Shettle et al., 2007).
However, girls appear to lose interest and confidence in STEM subjects as they move
through school and perform increasingly poorly on timed tests in these subjects, which
may reflect sociocultural factors at work. For example, girls but not boys are more likely to
Minding and mending the gap 3
‘inherit’ math anxiety from their early teachers (Beilock, Gunderson, Ramirez, & Levine,
2010), suggesting that stereotypes, norms, and roles play a part in the math gap, making it
a prime target for psychological intervention.
Psychological processes in achievement gaps
Recent research suggests the utility of ‘minding the gap’ as a social psychological process.
How do students see themselves in the school context? How accepted and valued do they
feel by others? What are the students’ academic goals and underlying beliefs about their
ability to reach them? A new wave of simple interventions has addressed this subjective
experience and found that addressing such social concerns or threats or simply treating
the stresses such processes engender can make significant differences in learning and
performance (Yeager & Walton, 2011; Wilson, 2006, 2011). This is because many
achievement gaps involve a psychological predicament: a threat to one’s social identity
(Steele, Spencer, & Aronson, 2002) or to one’s sense of belonging (Baumeister & Leary,
1995; Good, Rattan, & Dweck, 2012; Walton & Cohen, 2007). Both predicaments of social
identity can interfere with performance and motivation under certain circumstances,
particularly when the stakes for performance are high. Pyschological interventions work
by helping students cope with threats to identity, which can impair intellectual
functioning and motivation identity.
Nearly all countries have subpopulations of students stereotyped as academically
inferior. Examples include Latinos and African Americans in the United States, the Hans in
China, or Muslim immigrants in Denmark, and women in many countries are considered
less mathematically able (Steele, 1997). This fact underlies the burden of ‘stereotype
threat,’ the uncomfortable suspicion that a student’s social identity marks them as ill-
suited for academic success whether in reality or in the eyes of others (Steele & Aronson,
1995; Shapiro, Aronson, & McGlone, in press). This sense of threat has been shown to
impair performance both in laboratory and in field settings (Aronson & Dee, 2012;
Beilock, 2010; Inzlicht & Schmader, 2012; Steele, 1997; Steele et al., 2002) on tasks of
performance as well as learning (Appel, Kronberger, & Aronson, 2011; Aronson & Steele,
2005; Beilock, 2010; Willingham, 2009).
Stereotyped students also contend with ‘belongingness uncertainty’ the fear, often
signalled by one’s identity, that one does not belong in a setting where academic ability is
prized (Walton & Cohen, 2007). Although the research on belonging and its relation to
achievement is less voluminous, it is clear that situations that question one’s belonging
can impair intellectual performance, while contexts that foster a sense of belonging can
nurture it (Baumeister, Twenge, & Nuss, 2002; Good et al., 2012; Walton & Cohen, 2007;
Walton, Cohen, Cwir, & Spencer, 2012).
Social identity processes like stereotype threat and belongingness uncertainty create
markedly different subjective experiences for students targeted by stereotypes, which in
turn can lead to significant differences in performance despite being in an objectively
similar environment. For example, presenting a task as a measure of intelligence tends to
impair the scores of African Americans, female mathematics students, and Hispanics,
while having little effect on non-stereotyped students with similar skills and preparation
(Inzlicht & Schmader, 2012; Steele, 1997; Steele & Aronson, 1995). Furthermore, the
effects of the stereotype threat can create a vicious cycle that can play out over time, with
students withdrawing effort and disengaging in response to the discomfort of performing
under the burden of high expectations (Stone, Lynch, Sjomeling, & Darley, 1999; Wilson,
4Brian Spitzer and Joshua Aronson
Frequently, it is the students who care most about achievement who are most
prone to stereotype threat and its effects (Aronson et al., 1999). One study (Osborne
& Walker, 2006) found that minority students who cared most about doing well in
academics were the most likely to withdraw from school; in contrast, White students’
level of caring was unrelated to dropping out. Hundreds of studies (and two meta-
analyses) have found that conditions that induce the stereotype threat undermine test
performance, indicating that high-stakes-standardized tests systematically underesti-
mate the abilities of stereotyped students (Nguyen & Ryan, 2008; Walton & Spencer,
2009). Minding the subjective experiences of students who underperform, psychol-
ogists’ interventions address these predicaments with surprising simplicity and
power, representing one of the most exciting developments in psychology and
education in the past few decades (Wilson, 2006; Yeager & Walton, 2011). Our aim is
to describe and evaluate these interventions.
Gap reducing interventions
Traditional approaches to gap closing target the objective features of schools and colleges,
such as curriculum, incentives for teachers and students, or time spent in school and on
task (Fryer, 2010; Thernstrom and Thernsstrom, 2003). In contrast, social psychological
interventions aim to improve the student’s subjective experiences in school (Wilson,
2011). Such interventions can take a variety of forms, from a simple writing exercise
completed in a few minutes, to a regular programme of stress-reducing meditation, to
rearrangements of the classroom structure into cooperative groups. Despite the
differences, each technique targets the socio-emotional experiences paradigm in a way
that reduces anxieties and distractions, which can interfere with performance and can
prompt maladaptive responses to failure.
This study seeks to explain and assess several social psychological interventions in the
United States that are likely candidates for reducing educational disparities across the
globe. We also acknowledge the importance of other types of educational interventions
that specifically target learning/intellectual processes such as self-regulation, executive
control, and working memory, which have been shown to have lasting effects on school
performance (Ritter, Anderson, Koedinger, & Corbett, 2007).
Our focus is on psychological interventions designed to alter perceptions of threat,
students’ responses to it, or the stresses that such threats engender. These interventions
have generated both excitement and controversy due to their remarkable cost-
effectiveness, and therefore deserve and need to be tested more broadly in a variety of
For students of low socio-economic status, stress is an extremely relevant factor in
achievement. Many students live with toxic amounts of stress and threat, which can act as
major barriers to success. Educators working in these high-poverty neighbourhoods are
also at higher risk of burnout than their peers who work in more affluent areas. Recent
research has highlighted the benefits of meditation in schools. Broadly, meditation
involves a variety of practices used to control consciousness.
Studies have shown that meditation can reduce anxiety, as well as improve executive
functioning such as working memory, self-awareness, and self-control (Flook et al.,
Minding and mending the gap 5
2010; Mrazek, Franklin, Phillips, Baird, & Schooler, 2013; Napoli, Krech, & Holley, 2005;
Schonert-Reichl & Lawlor, 2010; Zylowska et al., 2008). It also influences physiological
markers, decreasing blood pressure and cortisol levels (Black, Milam, & Sussman, 2009;
MacLean et al., 1994, 2010). Additionally, meditation has been shown to reduce
misbehaviour and aggression in schools (Barnes, Treiber, & Johnson, 2004; Black et al.,
2009; Schonert-Reichl & Lawlor, 2010). As more schools are incorporating a meditation
programme, the body of research supporting their use continues to grow.
One particularly successful intervention, Quiet Time, is a stress-reduction programme
in which students spend the first and last 15 min of every day either sitting quietly or
practicing transcendental meditation. Prior to the implementation of the Quiet Time
programme, Visitacion Valley Middle School was a threatening environment, with high
rates of violence and drug use. Moreover, 88% of the students received free or reduced-
price lunch and had some of the lowest test scores in the state of California. After 3 years
of Quiet Time, the school saw dramatic drops in both its suspension and truancy rates as
well as increases in academic achievement.
Since its implementation in 2007, students’ GPA improved, suspensions have been cut
in half, truancy rates have dropped by 61%, attendance rates climbed to 98%, and students
who had unexcused absences or were tardy for three or more days dropped from 18% to
7%. Furthermore, teacher turnover, which had been a persistent problem for the school,
dropped from more than half the staff quitting every year to staff members leaving only
due to retirement or promotion.
Role model exposure
When people know that a member of their group has succeeded in a domain, they are
less likely to buy into a stereotype alleging their group’s inferiority and will be less likely
to attribute their own difficulties to an identity-linked lack of ability. Marx and Roman
(2002), for example, found that when women taking a math test did so under the
supervision of a female test proctor presented as a math expert, they performed better
on the examination and reported higher levels of self-esteem. Female students also
performed better when taking a math test under stereotype threat conditions after
reading a newspaper article about an intelligent female student who excelled in math
(Marx, Stapel, & Muller, 2005).
Several other studies have demonstrated that exposure to role models can combat
stereotype threat (Blanton, Crocker, & Miller, 2000; McIntyre, Paulson, & Lord, 2003),
although role model effects like the so-called Obama effect, whereby exposure to Barack
Obama’s success supposedly led to test score gains among African Americans (Marx, Ko,
& Friedman, 2009), appear not to replicate (Aronson, Jannone, McGlone, & Johnson-
Campbell, 2009).
Studies suggest that the most effective role models are those who play up their own
early struggles and who impart the idea that struggle itself is normal. By contrast, role
models who are believed to be naturally gifted superstars who succeeded by talent rather
than persistence are less inspiring than the hard worker who gains competence through
grit and tenacity (Lockwood & Kunda, 1997, 1999). In one study, self-doubting first-year
college students watched videos in which an elder student confessed to having early
academic problems, which are common, and stated that most students’ performance
improves over time (Wilson & Linville, 1985). Immediately after watching this video, the
first year students clearly were emboldened by their ‘role model’; compared to a control
group, they solved significantly more questions on a challenging test. The effects were
6Brian Spitzer and Joshua Aronson
long lasting; 1 year after participating in this brief intervention, these students had
significantly better grades (.3 to .4 points higher) than controls and were significantly
more likely to remain enrolled in college. These studies are thought to work by changing
the narrative by which students interpret their difficulties, such as ‘this is hard even for
smart, successful people; I need to relax and try harder.’ (Good, Arons on, & Inzlicht, 2003;
Hong & Lin-Siegler, 2012; Jesse & Gregory, 1987; Nelum-Hart, Schooler, Wilson, & Myers,
1999; Wilson & Myers, 1999).
For some students, anxiety can be so debilitating that they perform poorly despite
knowing the material being tested. They might worry so much about the consequences of
the task at hand that the greater portion of their cognitive resources are spent on these
worries, leaving the students unable to perform up to their true abilities. Individuals who
are anxious about their abilities may even back away from challenging material to avoid
feeling distressed (Hembree, 1990).
Researchers have found that students can help regulate these negative emotions and
free up their cognitive resources by writing about fears. When individuals are given a free
writing task to write freely for 1015 min about a specific upcoming stress, they are able
to process these fears. One study found that writing about fears before a final examination
raised students’ grades on average from a B-to a B+(Ramirez & Beilock, 2011). In fact,
simply telling students that physiological reactions such as sweaty palms or a rapid
heartbeat are natural reactions to anxiety significantly improved their scores on a practice
GRE (Jamieson, Mendes, Blackstock, & Schmader, 2010 ). Additionally, students who were
told to frame a test as a challenge rather than a threat had lower levels of salivary cortisol,
which was associated with higher performance (Mattarella-Micke, Mateo, Kozak, Foster,
& Beilock, 2011).
Growth mindset
Other interventions work on a more cognitive level, asking students to create
narratives that raise expectations, redefine threats as challenges, or encourage
healthier attributions. Students’ beliefs about the nature of their intelligence have
been shown to influence their performance and their response to threats. Those who
believe that intelligence is fixed and cannot be improved tend to have worse long-
term outcomes because they believe that performing poorly or struggling with
difficult material is a sign that they are not smart enough to handle the task at hand. If
they think there is nothing they can do to get smarter, they are more likely to give up
than to persist in that task. Similarly, they are more likely to choose tasks that will
allow them to demonstrate their ability rather than tackling more difficult tasks that
would teach them something new. In contrast, students who see intelligence as
something that can be changed through effortful learning and deliberate practice tend
to be more resilient in the face of challenges and opt for difficult tasks they can learn
from, rather than easier tasks at which success is guaranteed.
The so-called growth-mindset interventions reduce performance anxiety and mal-
adaptive responses to failure, with a similar approach to the ‘normality of struggle’
message, which emphasizes the importance of the effort. Many students believe their IQ is
an endowed entity that is fixed, rather than a dynamic capacity that is expandable. When
Minding and mending the gap 7
students believe their abilities cannot improve with practice they become invested in
protecting their sense of competence rather than taking on academic risks and challenges
that in reality could improve it. This belief in fixed intelligence magnifies the anxiety
around evaluation and increases negative responses to stereotype threat (Dweck, 2006).
This reasoning has led to some very promising interventions for ‘at-risk’ students.
Specifically, when students are taught and encouraged to remember their intelligence is
expandable through effort, students can make significant gains in GPA, their enjoyment of
school (Aronson, Fried, & Good, 2002; Blackwell, Trzesniewski, & Dweck, 2007), and
even year-end test scores (Good et al., 2003).
In a growth mindset intervention, students are taught that the brain is a dynamic,
malleable organ and, like a muscle, grows when they work hard to learn something new.
Blackwell et al. (2007) ran a study with low-achieving seventh-grade students. Half of the
subjects were taught that intelligence is malleable and can be developed, while the other
half learned about memory and discussed academic issues of personal interest to them.
The experimental group had more of a growth mindset theory after the intervention
(d=.47) and did not display the continuing downward trajectory in grades that the
control group experienced. Recent research has suggested that believing that personality
is malleable can also have positive effects. A brief intervention that taught an incremental
theory of personality the belief that people can change led to fewer negative reactions
to social adversity, lower reported overall stress and physical illness 8 months later, and
achieved better academic performance over the year (Yeager, Johnson et al., 2014).
Overall, it appears that students’ mindsets play a pivotal role in their motivation and
resilience. Those with more adaptive mindsets are more likely to understand that their
abilities can grow with effort, by new strategies when they get stuck, and persisting
through setbacks.
Possible selves
In the process of forming their own identities, adolescents may think about the
different versions of themselves that they are and could be, their ‘possible selves’.
For example, possible selves might include the clever student who aces tests, or the
fat self who cannot lose weight, and so on (Oyserman & Markus, 1990). Simply
thinking about attaining a positive possible self has been associated with greater well-
being (King, 2001) and persistence (Ruvolo & Markus, 1992), while not becoming a
desired future self has been linked with depression (Strauman, 2002; Strauman &
Higgins, 1988). Students’ motivations may suffer when they notice discrepancies
between idealistic and realistic views, or their current and their possible selves.
However, if these incongruent views and possible selves can be made to coexist,
students may benefit. Oyserman, Bybee, and Terry (2006) found that changing how
students think or teaching them how to move towards their ideals, led to increased
academic achievement and self-reported motivation, and what is more remarkable,
these improvements were sustained over 2 years. As students think about who they
hope to be in the future, they are likely to consider the relevance of what they are
currently learning to those possible selves (Oyserman & Fryberg, 2006). In fact,
students with purposeful work goals had higher levels of meaning in life, d=.22, a
greater sense of purpose, d=.23, and said that studying was more meaningful to
them d=.27 (Yeager & Bundick, 2009).
8Brian Spitzer and Joshua Aronson
In a purpose for learning intervention, students wrote an open-ended essay response
promoting a self-transcendent purpose. Specifically, they explained how learning in high
school would help them be the kind of person they want to be, or help them make the kind
of impact they want on others. Results showed the self-transcendent purpose for learning
increased STEM-course grades for students, particularly the low performers who were on
track for being underprepared for higher education (Yeager, Henderson et al., 2014).
Thus, while students are presumably in school to prepare for their lives after graduation,
either in the working world or in higher education, many struggle to find personal
meaning in their day-to-day schoolwork. Research suggests that helping students make
their schoolwork more relevant to their identity may increase intrinsic motivation and
academic engagement (Cordova & Lepper, 1996; Fredricks, Blumenfeld, & Paris, 2004;
Yeager & Bundick, 2009).
Values affirmations
Students’ values are just as important as their beliefs and attributions. Adolescence in
particular is a time when students struggle to build a narrative about who they are and who
they would like to be in the future. During this period of individuation, threats to one’s
identity can make it difficult to generate a secure sense of adequacy (Aronson & Good,
2003; Eccles, Lord, & Midgley, 1991; Sherman et al., 2013). According to self-affirmation
theory, people are motivated to think of themselves as globally capable, moral, and good
as being ‘adaptively adequate’ or having ‘self-integrity’ (Steele, 1988). Thus, when they
encounter threats to their self-integrity, people try to restore their self-worth in other
ways. Self-affirmations allow people to reinforce their self-integrity and worth by thinking
about things that are important to them, but unrelated to the threat at hand (Aronson
et al., 1999; Sherman et al., 2013; Steele, 1998). Engaging in self-affirmation activities is
thought to reduce stress, which can improve performance (Creswell et al., 2005).
Cohen, Garcia, Apfel, and Master (2006) conducted a field experiment of a self-
affirmation intervention with seventh-grade students of a suburban school in which half
the students were identified as African American. Students completed a series of
structured writing assignments in which they wrote about a personally important value,
such as friends or family. This intervention reduced the GPA gap between African
American and White students by 40% in the fall term. Follow-up data revealed that, 2 years
later, the overall GPA gap between African American and White students was still reduced
by 30%. Different self-affirmation interventions have improved performance, although
with weaker effects, in situations where participants experienced identity threats (Cohen
et al., 2006; Cohen, Garcia, Purdie-Vaughns, Apfel, & Brzustoski, 2009; Martens, Johns,
Greenberg, & Schimel, 2006; Miyake et al., 2010; Shapiro, Williams, & Hambarchyan,
2013). Recently, Hanselman, Bruch, Gamoran, and Borman (2014) replicated the
affirmation effect across an entire school district; the racial achievement gap was reduced
by over 12%, but only in schools where there was significant identity threat.
Still, self-affirmation interventions yield complicated results. For example, Dee (2011)
found that although a self-affirmation programme improved the performance of Hispanic
students, it had no impact on African American students and instead seemed to undermine
the performance of female students. Further, when students were aware the intervention
was intended to help them, it appeared to be less effective (Sherman et al., 2009).
Although the replication record is growing, affirmations have occasionally been found to
backfire, apparently if they serve to remind the individual that he or she is not living up to
Minding and mending the gap 9
personal standards. Alternatively, Wood, Perunovic, and Lee (2009) found that repeating
positive statements helped those with higher self-esteem, but left those with lower self-
esteem feeling more depressed and self-critical. Similar to overly positive praise, when
affirmations conflict with a person’s identity, they may seem so unbelievable that they
reinforce negative self-perceptions.
Belonging interventions
When students encounter a new environment, they may worry about whether others will
accept them, particularly when they belong to an underrepresented, stereotyped, or
devalued social group. Retaining a sense of belonging and feeling socially connected is a
fundamental human motivation (Baumeister & Leary, 1995; Deci & Ryan, 1985). Student
belonging reliably predicts achievement, engagement, and perseverance (Freeman,
Anderman, & Jensen, 2007; Goodenow, 1993; Hurtado & Carter, 1997; Patrick, Ryan, &
Kaplan, 2007). Social-belonging interventions are intended to change how students think
about negative experiences and adversity. Feelings of belonging can buttress students
against negative events and allow them to work their way through challenges. On the
other hand, lacking this sense of belonging can make students more likely to disengage or
withdraw. Belongingness is especially important when students begin their college
careers. The transition to college can be stressful and associated with various difficulties
such as struggling academically and feeling lonely and out of place. However, the
experience of these difficulties can be harnessed to increase students’ feelings of
belonging. Recontextualizing these experiences as common challenges faced in a new
environment can strengthen students’ motivation, persistence, and even their academic
In an hour-long intervention, Walton and Cohen (2011) asked students to interpret
the results of a survey about the transition to college. These results emphasized that
most upperclassmen of all ethnicities worried about their social belonging in college
when they first got there, but their concerns dissipated with time and eventually
almost all students came to feel at home. The study included narratives focused on
how at first, freshmen students felt different and concerned about whether they fit in,
but gradually their confidence increased, they established friendships, adapted to the
academic work, and felt accepted. In the second part of the intervention, each student
wrote a short essay about his or her own college experiences and were asked to
incorporate examples similar to the ones they read about in the survey. Finally, each
student made a video recording of his or her essay, which the researchers explained
would be used to help members of future incoming classes of students understand
what it is like to make the transition to college. Results showed that the intervention
reduced the African American/White gap in students’ 3-year GPA by 52%. These
improvements contributed to tripling the number of African American students in the
top 25% of their class. Interestingly, when asked about their participation in this study
later, few students remembered its content, and most said it had no effect on their
college experience.
Cooperative learning
Although the importance of belongingness is rarely questioned, educators often debate
the value of competitive versus cooperative classrooms. Competitive learning,
10 Brian Spitzer and Joshua Aronson
sometimes referred to as individualistic learning, generally entails students’ studying and
producing schoolwork individually, with little help or input from their peers. Advocates
argue that because it is based on the free enterprise system, competitive learning helps
students prepare for life in the real world. On the other hand, cooperative learning
involves students working with one another to achieve shared learning goals (Johnson &
Johnson, 1999). Cooperative learning environments can positively facilitate ethnic
relations, improve student performance, and nurture socioemotional, or ‘soft,’ skills
(Aronson, Stephan, Sikes, Blaney, & Snapp, 1978; Sharan & Hertz-Lazarowitz, 1980;
Slavin, 1980).
The jigsaw classroom technique was developed to help weaken racial cliques in the
classroom. Activities are organized so that groups work cooperatively on a project,
which is divided into several parts. Each student in the group is assigned a unique part
of the project to work on, which he or she must then teach to the other members of his
or her group. Success of each individual depends on the success of every other group
member (Aronson et al., 1978). Students participating in jigsaw classrooms have
benefited from increased self-esteem, greater liking for other classmates and school, as
well as improved performance on tests (Aronson & Gonzalez, 1988; Aronson et al.,
In most countries, people recognize the importance of breaking the links between socio-
economic disadvantage and academic achievement. Countries like Finland and Singapore
have been remarkably successful in minimizing the ‘poor tax’ on academic and social
advancement. However, in many countries, a variety of gaps in achievement remain.
Without denying the importance of structure, resources, or important policy changes
needed to address the persistent and growing gaps in learning, we believe that
recognizing the significance of social psychological factors offers the possibility of
developing interventions that do not depend upon structural or political change, but
rather can empower teachers and students to make the best of unequal opportunities
(Fergus, Noguera, & Martin, 2014).
The research reviewed here suggests several ways of doing this, but we believe it also
makes a larger point that bears repeating: how we conceptualize gaps will determine
which steps, if any, we take to narrow them. If we accept the dogma that children cannot
become smarter, nicer, or develop positive character traits without massive changes in the
social order, we may fail to explore the ways they can thrive in the present social order.
Likewise, if we attribute the gaps to unchangeable defects in the low-achieving groups
themselves, we may be similarly pessimistic about prospects for improvement. How we
think about gaps matter, and we believe these interventions encourage a view that
achievement gaps are partly about structure, but also, importantly, about our subjective
experience of that structure.
For example, meditation, role models, emotional reappraisal, growth mindsets,
imagining possible selves, self-affirmations, belongingness, and cooperative learning can
help ameliorate threats to identity and raise achievement. A majority of these work by
changing students’ interpretations without changing the curriculum, the quality of
instruction, or anything about the objective environment. Small changes to students’
perceptions of how they think about themselves and others can spur cascading results in
achievement. It is clear that students’ implicit theories can promote their success, by
Minding and mending the gap 11
reducing threats or their effects in the educational environment. We therefore regard
these theory-based interventions as genuine advances in the way schools address
achievement gaps. These interventions tend to work subtly, but can prompt continued
growth if they engage recursive processes, positive spirals that are self-reinforcing. Still,
because these interventions do not always work as planned, it is also clear more research is
needed to address the nuances and complications that confront the educator interested in
using them.
As Yeager and Walton (2011) point out, these interventions are not magic, despite
their sensational effects. Rather, they are a demonstration of the way people’s
educational experiences depend on details of the social context how tasks are
framed, who else is in the room, what one believes about intelligence, and so on.
Overall, it appears that alleviating psychological threats improves academic achieve-
ment in real-world environments. Yet, because contextual details matter, it necessarily
follows that these interventions will not work in all settings (e.g., the success of these
interventions is best tested with experimental designs with random assignment).
Further research is needed before we can know with confidence which interventions
are most appropriate in which settings. Schools clearly cannot solve inequality on
their own; large-scale economic changes are needed and the success of Finland lies as
much in its tax code as it does in the quality of its schools and teachers. Still, these
interventions demonstrate that significant gains can be made by focusing on the
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18 Brian Spitzer and Joshua Aronson
... Relativement aux facteurs psychologiques, l'objectif serait d'aider les élèves à dépasser les menaces qui pèsent sur leur identité et qui « parasitent » leur fonctionnement intellectuel et motivationnel (Spitzer & Aronson, 2015). Les ...
... La première serait d'informer les élèves de la menace du stéréotype et de leur expliquer ses effets délétères afin de les « prévenir » de telles conséquences (Souchal et al., 2013). La seconde consisterait à réguler les émotions des élèves en les invitant à écrire ou verbaliser leurs peurs et leur stress en amont de l'évaluation (Spitzer & Aronson, 2015). Enfin, et bien que les effets varient selon les groupes d'âge, il pourrait s'agir de privilégier « l'activation » d'une identité qui est reliée à un stéréotype positif dans le domaine visé par l'évaluation (e.g. ...
... Au niveau des pratiques pédagogiques, l'individualisation (Spitzer & Aronson, 2015) constituerait une piste possible, puisqu'elle consiste à invoquer les caractéristiques individuelles de l'élève et ses compétences propres, plutôt que celles qui sont reliées à ses appartenances catégorielles. Dans la même perspective, l'affirmation de soi, i.e. amener les élèves à s'affirmer et à valoriser leurs valeurs personnelles (Souchal et al., 2013), et les sois possibles (Spitzer & Aronson, 2015), i.e. favoriser la projection des élèves dans le futur en pensant à la personne qu'ils et elles veulent être ou à l'impact qu'ils et elles peuvent avoir sur autrui, ont des conséquences positives sur la motivation et les performances des individus. ...
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En se situant au croisement des sphères scientifique, politique et sociale, la formation initiale des des écoles (PE) à l’égalité des sexes est un objet de recherche prolifique. Pour notre discipline, cet espace recouvre d’autant plus d’intérêt que la déconstruction des stéréotypes figure désormais comme cheval de bataille (Morin-Messabel et al., 2018). En parallèle, la psychologie sociale accorde une attention particulière aux contre-stéréotypes : construits en miroir des stéréotypes, ils incarneraient leur antidote (Blair et al., 2001). Bien que le contre-stéréotype ne jouisse pas de la renommée du stéréotype dans la pensée sociale, il a su s’immiscer de façon anonyme dans le champ de l’éducation. L’objectif de notre thèse est de saisir la manière dont ces concepts psychosociaux, ainsi que la notion d’égalité, sont représentés dans la formation des PE, notamment par les formé.es. Dans cette perspective, notre protocole de recherche s’inscrit dans une stratégie de triangulation (Kalampalikis & Apostolidis, 2021). En premier lieu, nous avons mené des entretiens individuels semi-directifs auprès de PE (n=43), de manière sérielle (i.e. pendant le M1, le M2, et la 1ère année de stage). Puis, nous avons appréhendé les savoirs collectifs des formé.es en conduisant 3 focus groups (i.e. M1, M2, mixte). L’observation des séances de formation à l’égalité des sexes (n=4) constitue notre troisième étape de recherche. Celle-ci nous invitait à interroger les interactions, en nous focalisant plus particulièrement sur les connaissances dispensées par les en charge de ces enseignements. En dernier lieu, l’analyse des textes officiels produits par les politiques éducatives, de 1984 à 2019, sur les questions d’égalité filles-garçons (n=7) nous permettait d’approcher un langage politique. Les résultats obtenus révèlent la prépondérance des notions d’égalité et de stéréotype, les deux fonctionnant ensemble dans les différents discours recueillis. Nous notons des définitions consensuelles à leur égard. Néanmoins, le concept de différence vient flouter les deux termes et fait dissensus. Le contre-stéréotype, quant à lui, n’est que peu nommé en tant que tel, et demeure marginal. C’est la liaison qu’il entretient avec le stéréotype qui lui permet d’être reconnu et conceptualisé. Enfin, lorsque les stéréotypes et contre-stéréotypes sont théorisés, les discours portent l’empreinte d’un vocabulaire psychosocial.
... Students with a fixed mindset assume intelligence is fixed at birth and failures signal an uncontrollable deficit in ability. Growth mindset facilitates students to establish and maintain a positive identity in STEM disciplines and academia in general (Martinot & Désert, 2007;Seo et al., 2019;Spitzer & Aronson, 2015). For example, Seo et al. (2019) in a longitudinal study using U.S. nationally representative data found that 10th graders' math-related ability beliefs, such as growth mindset, positively predicted their STEM career attainment over 10 years. ...
... For example, Seo et al. (2019) in a longitudinal study using U.S. nationally representative data found that 10th graders' math-related ability beliefs, such as growth mindset, positively predicted their STEM career attainment over 10 years. Spitzer and Aronson (2015) also emphasised growth mindset interventions in their review of social psychological interventions that help alleviate the threats to student academic identity and reduce achievement gaps. ...
... Teachers' growth-mindset practices show potential to help alleviate the growing threats to high school students' science identity. These practices have positive impact on shaping students' competence beliefs, conceptions of ability, self-concept, and growth and success in science (Dweck, 2000(Dweck, , 2008, which are closely associated with science identity (Spitzer & Aronson, 2015). Furthermore, although there is some counter evidence (Haimovitz & Dweck, 2016), teachers' growth-mindset beliefs and practices may also shape students' mindset beliefs through the quality of their teaching practices and their interactions with students (Dweck, 2008;Schmidt et al., 2015). ...
High school is a critical period for science identity development. Teacher influences are important but under-researched. Teachers’ growth-mindset practices may help students meet the growing challenges to their ability, achievement, and identity in science and have long-term influences, especially for underrepresented students. We explored U.S. high school students’ perceptions of science teachers’ growth-mindset practices at ninth grade and the effect on the mean development trajectory of their science identity over six years. Three waves of data from a nationally representative sample of 15,648 students were analysed through longitudinal multilevel models. Data from underrepresented ethnic minorities (n = 4,485), students with low socioeconomic status (low-SES) (n = 2,219), and female students (n = 7,823) were analysed separately from the overall sample. Perceived teachers’ growth-mindset practices significantly predicted initial science identity at ninth grade for the overall sample, ethnic minorities, and female students, as well as science identity development over time for all four samples, before controlling student competence beliefs, gender, race, and SES. The long-term effect was more salient for the ethnic minority and low-SES students. We extended prior work by examining the effect of perceived teachers’ mindset practices in the science discipline, particularly the long-term effect, while most research on STEM motivation and identity from a growth mindset perspective focused on student mindset, the math discipline, and the short-term effect of mindset. Results suggest continued teacher training on growth mindset for helping students develop science identity, especially for ethnic minority and low-SES students. This article is accessible at
... Stereotype threat interventions that aim at reducing and eliminating the negative effects of stereotype threat have already received considerable attention in gender and race (Liu et al., 2021;Spitzer & Aronson, 2015). However, research on interventions that address student-athlete academic stereotype threat is lacking. ...
... Among the 142 articles that were coded (containing 181 intervention studies), no study targeted athletes. Given that the influences of stereotype threats are diverse based on the patterns, risks, and populations (Shapiro, 2011;Spitzer & Aronson, 2015), research specifically targeting student athletes is needed. Furthermore, no study has presented a theoretical approach to student-athlete stereotype threat. ...
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Longstanding and negative stereotypes regarding athletes’ academic performance can have negative impacts. In this paper, two experimental studies on such stereotypes that explore the effects of identity safety and the benefits of self-complexity interventions are presented. In Study 1, 124 high school athletes were divided into two groups and instructed to read short texts containing descriptions of identity safety and identity uncertainty, respectively. Subsequently, we administered a questionnaire on academic values and allowed participants to select between learning activities of varying difficulty. In Study 2, 112 high school athletes were divided into two groups and given short texts to read containing descriptions of identity safety and identity uncertainty. Subsequently, the participants were further divided into groups that received a high or low self-complexity intervention. We used the change in participants’ selection of the difficulty level of the learning activity as an indicator of the effects of the intervention. The findings revealed that participants in the identity safety group selected academic tasks of higher difficulty after the intervention. In Study 2, the high self-complexity intervention exerted benefits for participants, whereas the participants receiving the low self-complexity intervention selected tasks with lower difficulty. From the motivational perspective, the present findings indicate that building identity-safe environments and implementing high self-complexity interventions can help athletes combat the negative impacts of stereotypes with regard to their academic performance.
... The logic is that learning to read requires teaching that is compassionate. In literacy education (and perhaps in most disciplines), mindset influences all activity as well as non-cognitive socio-relational cues that influence learning and behavior (Bourdieu, 1980;Dweck, 2006;Spitzer & Aronson, 2015). My teacher participants and I examined mindsets as a fundamental ELA apparatus, as part of the teaching of ELA (as opposed to separate from it), and as both (meta) content and analytical frame. ...
... Research suggests that teachers can become more compassionate by engaging habits of introspection, closely delving into the biases that fetishize children of color David E. Kirkland as hyper-mature (Way et al., 2007). Research has also shown that we, as humans, are inherently empathic and cooperative social beings; however, we need supportive relationships and connected communities to allow such drives to thrive (Spitzer & Aronson, 2015). Thus, our capacity for empathy and mutual understanding advances beyond the hold of stereotypes when those mindsets are confronted. ...
... The logic is that learning to read requires teaching that is compassionate. In literacy education (and perhaps in most disciplines), mindset influences all activity as well as non-cognitive socio-relational cues that influence learning and behavior (Bourdieu, 1980;Dweck, 2006;Spitzer & Aronson, 2015). My teacher participants and I examined mindsets as a fundamental ELA apparatus, as part of the teaching ofELA (as opposed to separate from it), and as both (meta) content and analytical frame. ...
... A Focus on Transform ing T ea cher Mindsets as hyper-mature (Way et al., 2007). Research has also shown that we, as humans, are inherently empathic and cooperative social beings; however, we need support ive relationships and connected communities to allow such drives to thrive (Spitzer & Aronson, 2015). Thus, our capacity for empathy and mutual understanding advances beyond the hold of stereotypes when those mindsets are confronted. ...
Full-text available
... Given what we know about math anxiety, how do instructors teaching math-related courses engage and motivate their students each class session, over the course of the semester? Directly embedding psychological interventions within classroom pedagogy has been recommended to make stressmanagement methods immediately accessible to many students (Spitzer & Aronson, 2015). Many research studies have either implemented a mindfulness (Cavanagh et al., 2021) or a growth mindset intervention (Fleurizard & Young, 2018;Smith & Capuzzi, 2019) to allay math anxiety in the college classroom. ...
... A simple strategy to cultivate academic mindset and self-efficacy during PSI sessions is to train leaders to encourage and praise strong efforts and hard work when exhibited by PSI participants. Students' perceptions of a social context can enhance or inhibit their achievement (Spitzer B, Aronson, 2015), so creating a sense of belonging by providing name tags and referring to PSI participants by name might also promote growth mindset, self-efficacy values, and participation in PSI sessions. Since this model appears to engender attributes that are in high demand in the science and engineering workforce, PSI and other high impact learning strategies will continue to seek evidence-based practices to evolve and meet the changing demands of the modernizing STEM world. ...
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Georgia Gwinnett College, an access institution serving the most diverse student body of southeast colleges, was awarded National Science Foundation and University System of Georgia STEM-Education Improvement grants to help our students meet the evolving needs of STEM education. One of the initiatives emerging from these resources is the Peer Supplemental Instruction (PSI) pro-gram, a modified model of the traditional SI program. SI is a well-documented, high-impact practice in higher education that engenders collaborative learning among students. Since SI was not available on campus, STEM faculty developed the current PSI program, with the aim to support students as they transition from high school to college. PSI is thus offered to students in the gateway courses for biology, chemistry, mathematics, and informa-tion technology majors and study sessions incorporate STEM skills, thereby increasing opportunities for students to engage in, and develop, STEM competencies. In the last year, attendance was recorded at 4,123 interactions. Assessment of academic performance of PSI students revealed that participation increased GPAs in PSI-supported courses, particularly in students entering college with low high school GPAs. Moreover, student attitudes towards STEM learning improved and peer students serving as leaders benefited, based on reports of their development of professional skills that are critical to success in college and STEM careers. We present an innovative adaptation of the SI program that can be adopted by STEM faculty, and may be particularly useful to institutions serving underprepared populations, in surmounting the academic success predictability of low high school GPA.
Student learning interactions and a sense of belonging are imperative to academic success within distance education settings. In March 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, students who intended to be educated through in-person learning environments had to shift to remote learning suddenly. In public health, a field that emphasizes experiential and interactive learning, instructors and graduate students enrolled in residential in-person programs transitioned to remote learning with limited knowledge of how this transition would impact student learning interactions and a sense of belonging. To address these gaps, we examined how remote learning impacted Master of Public Health students’ learning interactions with peers, instructors, course content, as well as their sense of belonging in an overall sample and stratified by program year. We found that students perceived challenges interacting with peers, content, and instructors, such as a lack of community and an inability to interact with instructors during course discussions. Students reported not feeling a sense of belonging when engaging with peers and instructors. Findings from this study shed light on the challenges that emerged after students transitioned to remote learning, namely disrupted student learning interactions and a decreased sense of belonging. The study provides recommendations for future remote teaching, which may be of utility to university instructors and administrators tasked with creating and implementing an interactive remote learning curriculum that provides students with a community to foster learning.
Three studies examined the effects of randomly assigned messages of social exclusion. In all 3 studies, significant and large decrements in intelligent thought (including IQ and Graduate Record Examination test performance) were found among people told they were likely to end up alone in life. The decline in cognitive performance was found in complex cognitive tasks such as effortful logic and reasoning: simple information processing remained intact despite the social exclusion. The effects were specific to social exclusion, as participants who received predictions of future nonsocial misfortunes (accidents and injuries) performed well on the cognitive tests. The cognitive impairments appeared to involve reductions in both speed (effort) and accuracy. The effect was not mediated by mood.
The Mind Is Not Designed for ThinkingPeople Are Naturally Curious, but Curiosity Is FragileHow Thinking Works18 × 7Implications for the ClassroomNotes
This article discusses the development and validation of a measure of adolescent students' perceived belonging or psychological membership in the school environment. An initial set of items was administered to early adolescent students in one suburban middle school (N = 454) and two multi-ethnic urban junior high schools (N = 301). Items with low variability and items detracting from scale reliability were dropped, resulting in a final 18-item Psychological Sense of School Membership (PSSM) scale, which had good internal consistency reliability with both urban and suburban students and in both English and Spanish versions. Significant findings of several hypothesized subgroup differences in psychological school membership supported scale construct validity. The quality of psychological membership in school was found to be substantially correlated with self-reported school motivation, and to a lesser degree with grades and with teacher-rated effort in the cross-sectional scale development studies and in a subsequent longitudinal project. Implications for research and for educational practice, especially with at-risk students, are discussed.
This article discusses the development and validation of a measure of adolescent students' perceived belonging or psychological membership in the school environment. An initial set of items was administered to early adolescent students in one suburban middle school (N = 454) and two multi‐ethnic urban junior high schools (N = 301). Items with low variability and items detracting from scale reliability were dropped, resulting in a final 18‐item Psychological Sense of School Membership (PSSM) scale, which had good internal consistency reliability with both urban and suburban students and in both English and Spanish versions. Significant findings of several hypothesized subgroup differences in psychological school membership supported scale construct validity. The quality of psychological membership in school was found to be substantially correlated with self‐reported school motivation, and to a lesser degree with grades and with teacher‐rated effort in the cross‐sectional scale development studies and in a subsequent longitudinal project. Implications for research and for educational practice, especially with at‐risk students, are discussed.
I: Background.- 1. An Introduction.- 2. Conceptualizations of Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination.- II: Self-Determination Theory.- 3. Cognitive Evaluation Theory: Perceived Causality and Perceived Competence.- 4. Cognitive Evaluation Theory: Interpersonal Communication and Intrapersonal Regulation.- 5. Toward an Organismic Integration Theory: Motivation and Development.- 6. Causality Orientations Theory: Personality Influences on Motivation.- III: Alternative Approaches.- 7. Operant and Attributional Theories.- 8. Information-Processing Theories.- IV: Applications and Implications.- 9. Education.- 10. Psychotherapy.- 11. Work.- 12. Sports.- References.- Author Index.