The impacts of a brief middle-school self-affirmation intervention help propel African American and Latino students through high school.

Geoffrey D. Borman, Yeseul Choi, Garret J. Hall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Stereotype threat has been shown to have deleterious impacts on the short- and long-term academic performance and psychological well-being of racial and ethnic minority students. Psychological variables related to this identity threat represent significant sources of achievement and attainment gaps relative to nonstereotyped Asian and white students who do not tend to be subject to performance declines related to such threats. In the current study, we investigate long-term effects of a brief self-affirmation intervention implemented at-scale to mitigate stereotype threat for seventh-grade African American and Latino students. Relative to their control-group counterparts, our findings indicate that a self-affirming intervention to buffer racial and ethnic minority students from identity threats reduced the growing achievement gap by 50% per year between seventh and 12th grade (N = 802). As a result, the achievement gap between white/Asian and African American/Latino students decreased by 42% at the end of 12th grade. Finally, the intervention increased on-time graduation rates for treated minority students by 10 percentage points (N = 952). Implications for theory, policy, and future research are discussed. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved) Educational Impact and Implications Statement: Students of color routinely confront bias and negative stereotypes about their ability to succeed academically in secondary schools. Such “threats in the air” have been shown to cause a variety of negative responses among African American and Latino students, including decreased psychological well-being, anxiety, and decreased working memory, all of which can negatively impact the students’ academic outcomes. In fact, these “threat responses” may account for as much as one third of the achievement gaps separating African American and Latino students from their white counterparts. With a brief, but precisely timed, series of four written exercises, seventh graders were offered the opportunity to reflect on other valued aspects of their personal identities beyond school. These so-called “self-affirmations” can help deflect some of the harm of bias and discrimination and help students of color to perform to their true potentials. Throughout an entire school district, we administered these exercises to seventh-grade students and tracked their academic progress through 12th grade. Our results suggest that the self-affirmations cut the growing achievement gaps in half and increased on-time graduation rates for students of color by 10 percentage points. Our article discusses how and under what circumstances such a brief intervention can have such strong and enduring effects. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)605-620
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Educational Psychology
Volume113
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2021

Keywords

  • intervention
  • racial/ethnic minority students
  • secondary schools

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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