A One-Hour Class Could Help Close ‘Achievement Gap’
By Liz Weston
REUTERS — First generation college students get lower grades and are more likely to drop out – an “achievement gap” that threatens efforts to boost the number of college graduates.
Recent research, however, suggests a simple one-hour intervention that focuses on students’ social-class backgrounds could help close the divide.
In an experiment at an unnamed elite private college, incoming students listened to college juniors and seniors discuss how their social class backgrounds affected their college experience, according to the paper “Closing the Social Class Achievement Gap,” to be published in Psychological Science. The attendees and the panelists were a mix of “first generation” students — those whose parents lacked college degrees — and “continuing generation” students whose parents had college educations.
The first-generation students who attended this “diversity education” panel subsequently earned higher grades and were more likely to use campus resources such as tutoring than first-generation students who attended a panel about adjusting to college life that didn’t include the panelists’ stories about social class background, the researchers found.
In fact, the achievement gap between first generation students who attended the diversity panel and their continuing-generation peers shrank by 63 percent, according to researchers Nicole M. Stephens, associate professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University; MarYam G. Hamedani, associate director of the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity at Stanford University; and Mesmin Destin, assistant professor of psychology at Northwestern University.
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