Self-affirmation reduces the socioeconomic attainment gap in schools in England

Hadden, Ian Robert, Easterbrook, Matthew, Nieuwenhuis, Marlon, Fox, Kerry and Dolan, Paul (2019) Self-affirmation reduces the socioeconomic attainment gap in schools in England. British Journal of Educational Psychology. ISSN 0007-0998

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Background. Studies in the USA show that school students from some ethnic backgrounds are susceptible to stereotype threat, that this undermines their academic performance, and that a series of virtually zero-cost self-affirmation writing exercises can reduce these adverse effects. In England, however, socioeconomic status (SES) is a much stronger predictor of academic success than is ethnic background.

Aims. This study investigates whether self-affirmation writing exercises can help close the SES attainment gap in England by increasing the academic performance of low-SES (but not higher-SES) school students.
Sample. Our sample consisted of students aged 11-14 in a secondary school in southern England (N = 562); of these, 128 were eligible for free school meals, a proxy
for low SES.

Methods. Students completed three short writing exercises throughout one academic year: those randomly assigned to an affirmed condition wrote about values that were important to them, and those assigned to a control condition wrote about a neutral topic.

Results. On average, the low-SES students had lower academic performance and reported experiencing more stereotype threat than their higher-SES peers. The selfaffirmation raised the academic performance of the low-SES students by 0.38 standard deviations but did not significantly affect the performance of the higher-SES students, thus reducing the SES performance gap by 62%. The self-affirmation also reduced the level of stress reported by the low-SES school students.

Conclusions. The benefits of this virtually zero-cost intervention compare favorably with those of other interventions targeting the SES academic attainment gap.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Stereotype threat; self-affirmation; socioeconomic status; attainment gap; schools
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Depositing User: Sanjeedah Choudhury
Date Deposited: 17 May 2019 09:19
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2020 01:01

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