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Improving Minority Academic Performance: How a Values-Affirmation Intervention Works


by Valerie Purdie-Vaughns, Geoffery L. Cohen, Julio Garcia, Rachel Sumner, Jonathan C. Cook & Nancy Apfel — September 23, 2009

Research testing a social-psychological intervention designed to improve minority student performance and reduce the racial achievement gap is summarized. Key to the intervention is the notion that the risk of confirming a negative stereotype aimed at one's group, stereotype threat, can elevate stress to a level that can inhibit academic performance in minority students. Self-affirmation, a process known to bolster individuals facing identity threat, was administered in the form of a brief in-class values-affirmation writing exercise to lessen such stress and mitigate its impact. Several double-blind field experimental trials at a suburban Northeastern middle school with a student body nearly equally divided between African Americans and European Americans, found significant improvement in African American students’ grades as well as on their statewide achievement test scores. How a seemingly small intervention can lead to significant reduction in the racial achievement gap is discussed in concluding remarks.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: September 23, 2009
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15774, Date Accessed: 10/20/2017 9:24:25 PM

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About the Author
  • Valerie Purdie-Vaughns
    Columbia University
    E-mail Author
    VALERIE PURDIE-VAUGHNS is an Assistant Professor in the Psychology Department at Columbia University.
  • Geoffery Cohen
    Stanford University School of Education
    GEOFFREY COHEN is the James G. March Professor of Organizational Studies in Education and Business at the Stanford University School of Education.
  • Julio Garcia
    Project Achieve

  • Rachel Sumner
    Columbia University
    RACHEL SUMNER is a research assistant at Columbia University.
  • Jonathan Cook
    University of Colorado, Boulder

  • Nancy Apfel
    Columbia University

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