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      Closing the social-class achievement gap: a difference-education intervention improves first-generation students' academic performance and all students' college transition.

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          Abstract

          College students who do not have parents with 4-year degrees (first-generation students) earn lower grades and encounter more obstacles to success than do students who have at least one parent with a 4-year degree (continuing-generation students). In the study reported here, we tested a novel intervention designed to reduce this social-class achievement gap with a randomized controlled trial (N = 168). Using senior college students' real-life stories, we conducted a difference-education intervention with incoming students about how their diverse backgrounds can shape what they experience in college. Compared with a standard intervention that provided similar stories of college adjustment without highlighting students' different backgrounds, the difference-education intervention eliminated the social-class achievement gap by increasing first-generation students' tendency to seek out college resources (e.g., meeting with professors) and, in turn, improving their end-of-year grade point averages. The difference-education intervention also improved the college transition for all students on numerous psychosocial outcomes (e.g., mental health and engagement).

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          Most cited references 22

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          A question of belonging: race, social fit, and achievement.

          Stigmatization can give rise to belonging uncertainty. In this state, people are sensitive to information diagnostic of the quality of their social connections. Two experiments tested how belonging uncertainty undermines the motivation and achievement of people whose group is negatively characterized in academic settings. In Experiment 1, students were led to believe that they might have few friends in an intellectual domain. Whereas White students were unaffected, Black students (stigmatized in academics) displayed a drop in their sense of belonging and potential. In Experiment 2, an intervention that mitigated doubts about social belonging in college raised the academic achievement (e.g., college grades) of Black students but not of White students. Implications for theories of achievement motivation and intervention are discussed. 2007 APA, all rights reserved
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            A brief social-belonging intervention improves academic and health outcomes of minority students.

            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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              Reducing the racial achievement gap: a social-psychological intervention.

              Two randomized field experiments tested a social-psychological intervention designed to improve minority student performance and increase our understanding of how psychological threat mediates performance in chronically evaluative real-world environments. We expected that the risk of confirming a negative stereotype aimed at one's group could undermine academic performance in minority students by elevating their level of psychological threat. We tested whether such psychological threat could be lessened by having students reaffirm their sense of personal adequacy or "self-integrity." The intervention, a brief in-class writing assignment, significantly improved the grades of African American students and reduced the racial achievement gap by 40%. These results suggest that the racial achievement gap, a major social concern in the United States, could be ameliorated by the use of timely and targeted social-psychological interventions.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Psychol Sci
                Psychological science
                1467-9280
                0956-7976
                Apr 2014
                : 25
                : 4
                Affiliations
                [1 ] 1Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University.
                Article
                0956797613518349
                10.1177/0956797613518349
                24553359

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