Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Recursive Processes in Self-affirmation: Intervening to Close the Minority Achievement Gap

Cohen, G.L., Garcia, J., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Apfel, N., & Brzustoski, P. (2009). Recursive processes in self-affirmation: Intervening to close the minority achievement gap. Science, 324, 400-403.

This journal article presents the results of a multi-year study focusing on an educational intervention to reduce the minority achievement gap. The intervention was a series of brief but structured writing assignments that asked students to reflect on an important personal value. The researchers found that this subtle intervention reduced the racial achievement gap. Over two years, the grade point average of African Americans was, on average, raised by 0.24 grade points. Low achieving African American students' GPA improved by 0.41 points, and their rate of remediation or grade repetition was reduced from 18% to 5%. This study illustrates the powerful effect of self-affirmation interventions in reducing minority students' psychological threat related to being negatively stereotyped in school.

The results of this study are highly reliable because the researchers set up a randomized field experiment and followed up on the results over several years to determine the long-term impact of a psychological intervention. This article would be useful to teachers who are interested in strategies for addressing the achievement gap in their classrooms. Evidence that psychological threats about negative stereotypes can be reduced through self-affirmations also has implications for school leaders interested in building a culture of equity within their schools.

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