Discuss - Writing brief paragraph on important values improves academic achievement over subsequent year


(#1) By Checkers on Mon 02/27/2012 12:41 pm CST (5 years ago)
A Self-Replication

There's kind of a "self-replication" here:  Cohen, G. L., Garcia, J., Purdie-Vaugns, V., Apfel, N., & Brzustoski, P. (2009). Recursive processes in self-affirmation: Intervening to close the minority achievement gap. Science, 324, 400-403.

(#2) By dcokeman on Sun 05/06/2012 07:29 am CDT (4 years ago)

If the paragraph can also dramatically improve math, reading, and writing skills, average IQ, give two parents, and create a complete change in behavior, values, and attitude, then anyone dealing with people who willingly choose to fail should just assign a paragraph (well, probably a writing assignment, as most of these students probably can't write a paragraph, but calling the exercise a paragraph provides a nice summation of the activity).

(#3) By MattM on Sat 09/08/2012 07:29 pm CDT (4 years ago)
Failure to Replicate?

Although cited in the review article by Logel et al. (Educ Psychol, 47(1), 42-50, 2012) as the only replication of the Cohen study by an independent group, on closer reading the study by Woolf et al. (BMC Medical Education 2009, 9:35) seems far from a straightforward replication. In a sample of UK medical students randomly assigned to a self-afirmation or control group, Woolf et al. reported a significant ethnicity by intervention interaction effect on a test of medical knowldege, consistent with the Cohen study. However, the interaction owes entirely to lower performace of the white intervention versus control group (there was no intervention effect on the ethnic minority sample), hardly what is expected based on the Cohen study. I suppose one lesson learned is that one cannot depend on characterization of replication studies in review articles. I am unfortunately unaware of independent replications, which of course would be quite important.

(#4) By glc on Sun 02/09/2014 04:09 pm CST (3 years ago)
Other published papers

I am Geoffrey Cohen, the lead author on the posted article. I thought readers might be interested in the following published affirmation replications conducted in schools, listed below. Additionally, our 2014 review of affirmation interventions in Annual Review of Psychology may be of interest. It is posted in the Recent Publications section of https://ed.stanford.edu/faculty/glc . In it we review other domains where affirmation has been applied, such as health, and discuss the context dependency of the effects of social-psychological interventions in general. In brief, affirmation is expected to have an effect in contexts where psychological threat, like identity threat, is a significant contributor to under-performance; and where the cognitive and classroom resources exist to support and sustain student growth.

More generally, we would expect the effect of an independent variable to replicate in new contexts insofar as the system of forces into which it is introduced remains invariant, as Kurt Lewin long ago implied. For some phenomena, such as basic cognitive processes, that invariance is to be expected. For others, less so. Much of the leg work of social science is understanding when, where, and for whom a given phenomenon applies.

Bowen NK, Wegmann KM, Webber KC. 2013. Enhancing a brief writing intervention to combat stereotype threat among middle-school students. J. Educ. Psychol. 105:427–35

Cook JE, Purdie-Vaughns V, Garcia J, Cohen GL. 2012. Chronic threat and contingent belonging: protective benefits of values affrmation on identity development. J. Personal. Soc. Psychol. 102:479–96. [Although Study 1 focuses on previously reported research, Study 2 is a new replication involving affirmation timing.]

Harackiewicz, J. M., Canning, E. A., Tibbetts, Y., Giffen, C. J., Blair, S. S., Rouse, D. I., & Hyde, J. S. (2013, November 4). Closing the Social Class Achievement Gap for First-Generation Students in Undergraduate Biology. Journal of Educational Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0034679

Miyake A, Kost-Smith LE, Finkelstein ND, Pollock SJ, Cohen GL, Ito TA. 2010. Reducing the gender achievement gap in college science: a classroom study of values affrmation. Science 330:1234–37

Shanda L, Momsen, J, Offerdahl, E., Kryjevskaia, M., Christensen, W., Montplaisir, L. (2013). Stereotyped: Investigating gender in introductory science courses. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 12, 30-38, Spring. [An interesting failure to replicate brought to my attention recently. There is no effect of the values affirmation on the gender gap in science. However, unlike Miyake et al., there was no gender gap in the science courses to begin with—those that did exist favored women. Thus, there was no evidence that there was identity threat for affirmation to ameliorate.]

Sherman DK, Hartson KA, Binning KR, Purdie-Vaughns V, Garcia J, Taborsky-Barba, S., Tomassetti, S., Nussbaum, A. D., & Cohen, G. L. 2013. Deflecting the trajectory and changing the narrative: how self-affkrmation affects academic performance and motivation under identity threat. J. Personal. Soc. Psychol. 104:591–618

(#5) By glc on Tue 07/22/2014 01:55 am CDT (2 years ago)

One more recent published classroom replication: 

Hanselman, P, Bruch, S. K., Gamoran, A, & Borman, G. D. (2014). Threat in context:  School moderation of the impact of social identity threat on racial/ethnic achievemen gaps.  Sociology of education, 87, 1-19.

(#6) By quest1ons on Sun 08/21/2016 11:00 pm CDT (7 months ago)
recent replication attempts

Four recent non-replications with thousands of participants:


Context Moderates Affirmation Effects on the Ethnic Achievement Gap


John Protzko, Joshua Aronson

Social Psychological and Personality Science



We attempted to replicate a self-affirmation intervention that produced a 40% reduction in the academic achievement gap among at-risk students. The intervention was designed as a protection against stereotype threat—, which creates stress and suppresses the performance, engagement, and learning of students stereotyped as intellectually inferior. In previous research, Black and Hispanic students who engaged in a values-affirmation exercise significantly improved their academic performance over the course of a school semester. We attempted to replicate these salutary effects in both an inner-city school and a more wealthy suburban school—contexts not tested in the original research. Despite employing the same materials, we found no effect of the affirmation on academic performance. We discuss these results in terms of the possibility that negatively stereotyped students benefit most from self-affirmations in environments where their numbers portray them neither as clearly “majority” nor minority.



Social Identity and Achievement Gaps: Evidence From an Affirmation Intervention


Thomas S. Dee

Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness

Page 149-168 



One provocative explanation for the continued persistence of minority achievement gaps involves the performance-dampening anxiety thought to be experienced by minority students in highly evaluative settings (i.e., “stereotype threat”). Recent field-experimental studies suggest that modest, low-cost “buffering” interventions informed by this phenomenon may be highly effective at reducing minority achievement gaps. This field-experimental study evaluates such an intervention in which students complete a self-directed “self affirmation” exercise that encourages them to identify and reflect upon their core personal values. This within-classroom randomized trial was conducted among 2,500 7th and 8th graders from six Philadelphia-area middle schools during the 2008–09 and 2009–10 academic years. Although this study failed to replicate the earlier findings indicating that the affirmation generated large increases in the academic performance of minority students, this treatment did lead to statistically significant improvements in the performance of the minority students in more supportive classroom environments. However, the treatment contrast also reduced the performance of female students in those settings.



New Evidence on Self-Affirmation Effects and Theorized Sources of Heterogeneity From Large-Scale Replications.


Hanselman, Paul; Rozek, Christopher S.; Grigg, Jeffrey; Borman, Geoffrey D.

Journal of Educational Psychology, Aug 8 , 2016



Brief, targeted self-affirmation writing exercises have recently been offered as a way to reduce racial achievement gaps, but evidence about their effects in educational settings is mixed, leaving ambiguity about the likely benefits of these strategies if implemented broadly. A key limitation in interpreting these mixed results is that they come from studies conducted by different research teams with different procedures in different settings; it is therefore impossible to isolate whether different effects are the result of theorized heterogeneity, unidentified moderators, or idiosyncratic features of the different studies. We addressed this limitation by conducting a well-powered replication of self-affirmation in a setting where a previous large-scale field experiment demonstrated significant positive impacts, using the same procedures. We found no evidence of effects in this replication study and estimates were precise enough to reject benefits larger than an effect size of 0.10. These null effects were significantly different from persistent benefits in the prior study in the same setting, and extensive testing revealed that currently theorized moderators of self-affirmation effects could not explain the difference. These results highlight the potential fragility of self-affirmation in educational settings when implemented widely and the need for new theory, measures, and evidence about the necessary conditions for self-affirmation success. 



Closing Achievement Gaps With a Utility-Value Intervention: Disentangling Race and Social Class.


Harackiewicz, Judith M.; Canning, Elizabeth A.; Tibbetts, Yoi; Priniski, Stacy J.; Hyde, Janet S.

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Nov 2 , 2015



Many college students abandon their goal of completing a degree in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) when confronted with challenging introductory-level science courses. In the U.S., this trend is more pronounced for underrepresented minority (URM) and first-generation (FG) students, and contributes to persisting racial and social-class achievement gaps in higher education. Previous intervention studies have focused exclusively on race or social class, but have not examined how the 2 may be confounded and interact. This research therefore investigates the independent and interactive effects of race and social class as moderators of an intervention designed to promote performance, measured by grade in the course. In a double-blind randomized experiment conducted over 4 semesters of an introductory biology course (N = 1,040), we tested the effectiveness of a utility-value intervention in which students wrote about the personal relevance of course material. The utility-value intervention was successful in reducing the achievement gap for FG-URM students by 61%: the performance gap for FG-URM students, relative to continuing generation (CG)-Majority students, was large in the control condition, .84 grade points (d = .98), and the treatment effect for FG-URM students was .51 grade points (d = 0.55). The UV intervention helped students from all groups find utility value in the course content, and mediation analyses showed that the process of writing about utility value was particularly powerful for FG-URM students. Results highlight the importance of intersectionality in examining the independent and interactive effects of race and social class when evaluating interventions to close achievement gaps and the mechanisms through which they may operate.

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