This paper reports the results of interventions designed
to improve performance of junior high students on
standardized tests using techniques that have been show
to increase enjoyment, valuing of
education, and grades in other studies (Aronson,
Fried, & Good, 2002;
Wilson & Linville, 1985). Seventh grade students received a college-aged mentor
for a full academic year with whom they discussed
adjusting to a new school environment and effective
strategies for studying. Different mentors,
however, had been directed to introduce other issues for
discussion. One group emphasized the expandable
nature of intelligence and the plasticity of brain and
neural development over life. A second group
emphasized that students often experience difficulty
transitioning to a new school and that these challenges
are typically overcome with time, thereby providing an
unstable, external attribution for academic struggle.
A third group of mentors emphasized both messages.
Subsequent performance on a statewide standardized tests
of math and reading of students in these three
conditions were compared with the performance of a
control group whose mentors emphasized an anti-drug
message. Results showed that males outperformed
females in math in the control condition,
but there were no significant differences between boys'
and girls' scores in the other three conditions.
For reading, mentoring emphasizing expandable
intelligence and external attributions for difficulty
produced higher scores than the control condition, but
the combined message did not produce a significant
difference compared with the control condition. This study demonstrates that interventions that have
been shown to reduce stereotype threat in laboratory
settings can be utilized to improve performance in
real-world contexts and to eliminate group differences
in performance on standardized tests.
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