Simple writing assignment created to emphasize students' sense of identity and personal integrity boosts grades of minority students, reveals a research.
According to Associate Professor Geoffrey Cohen, of CU-Boulder's psychology department, University of Colorado, the in-class coursework improved grade-point averages of African-Americans by .24 grade points over a two-year period.
The study, co-authors Nancy Apfel and Patricia Brzustoski of Yale University, also found that the assignment had no impact on white students' results.
Cohen, along with fellow experts Julio Garcia and Valerie Purdie-Vaughns of Columbia University, said early psychological interventions in students' middle school years could help lessen the racial achievement gap among students in the US.
He explained: "Our intervention is based on the idea that ethnic minority students experience, on average, higher levels of stress in the classroom because they are concerned that if they perform poorly on a test or in a class this will confirm, in the eyes of others, the negative stereotype about their group's intelligence ability."
Experts also recorded the students' perception of success at the beginning and at the end of the school year.
They found that a drop in their sense of adequacy in school over the course of the school year in low-performing African-Americans while the sense of success remained the same in white students over time.
Cohen added: "This suggests that early failure can have a disproportionate effect on the negatively stereotyped group. The first few weeks of middle school can have a negative effect on a child's self-concept that seems surprisingly persistent. We found that if you can buffer people against this you can potentially have long-term benefits."
The follow-up study was published in the April 16 issue of the journal Science.