The effects of the intervention werevery powerful. On the Texas Assessmentof Academic Skills (taas) test for math,performance of male students exposedto the intervention was much higher thanfor males not exposed to the intervention:0.64 standard deviations. For females,who tend to worry whether their gendermakes them less talented in math, thedifference was truly massive: 1.13 standard deviations. In reading, students exposed to the intervention did much better than students in the control group:0.52 standard deviations on average.Daphna Oyserman, from the University of Michigan School of Social Work,set up an elaborate, but still easily carriedout, intervention with poor minority junior high students.26 She gave them several sessions designed to make them thinkabout what kind of future they hoped for,what difficulties they would likely havealong the way, how they could deal withthose difficulties, and which of theirfriends would be most helpful in dealingwith the difficulties. These were supplemented with sessions in which studentsworked in small groups on how to dealwith everyday problems, social difficulties, academic problems, and the processof getting to high school graduation. Theintervention had a modest effect on GPA(0.25 standard deviations), a bigger effecton standardized tests (0.36 standard deviations), and a very big effect on likelihood of retention in grade (loweringthose chances by half).One small intervention with studentsat an integrated high school in the Easthad effects that were breathtakingly large.The study, by Geoffrey Cohen and hiscolleagues at Yale University, involvedasking students, as they began their highschool years, simply to write about theirmost important values: sports, schoolachievement, family, and so on.27 Thisintervention had no effect on whites oron high-performing black students. Butit had a huge effect on low-performingblack students, reducing the need for remediation from 18 percent to 5 percentand very substantially improving GPAs.Cohen reasons that the exercise was selfaffirming, building confidence in a situation where stereotypes about low blackability were sapping the energy and efforts of black students. The interventionmade them feel more a part of thingsand more comfortable in their surroundings. Interestingly, the same intervention had no effect on black students ina segregated school situation. It seemsthat the stereotype threat inherent inintegrated settings is not so active insegregated settings, and therefore theintervention cannot lessen its deleterious effects on performance.Small interventions can also makea difference in college. Most studentsworry about social acceptance andfitting in on campus, but for minorityRichard E.
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- Winter '18
- Intelligence quotient, American Academy of Arts & Sciences