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Psychological Interventions Can Close Achievement Gap

Targeting black students' self-view buffers them against early failure

FRIDAY, April 17 (HealthDay News) -- Structured writing assignments that focus on students' self-affirming value can help to close the racial gap in academic achievement, according to a study published in the April 17 issue of Science.

Geoffrey L. Cohen, Ph.D., of the University of Colorado in Boulder, and colleagues did a two-year follow-up on an experiment conducted with three independent cohorts comprising 133, 149, and 134 students, in which the subjects were given structured writing assignments on a self-affirming value that they possessed.

The intervention successfully reduced the achievement gaps between races, with low-achieving black students benefiting the most with a 0.41 grade point average improvement over two years. For black students overall, the grade point average rose by an average 0.24 grade points. The intervention produced long-term benefits in terms of black students' self-perception, the investigators discovered.

"By shoring up self-integrity at this time, the affirmation helped maintain their sense of adequacy, and interrupted the cycle in which early poor performance influenced later performance and psychological state," the authors write. "Other factors, such as teachers' expectancies of their students, could contribute to the longevity of the treatment's effect. For instance, that fewer affirmed children were assigned to remediation suggests that the interventions effects were not only noted by the academic system, but acted upon by it."

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