Transform the Classroom to Benefit Everyone

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study by Stanford researchers, published in Psychological Science, confirmed that shielding students from “stereotype threats” helps not only the individual students, but the entire classroom.

During the study, researchers protected African-American students from negative stereotypes that usually lead to students underperforming academically compared to white students, but this was not an easy hurdle to overcome.

Professor Geoffrey Cohen, along with graduate student and lead author on the paper, Joseph Powers, decided to encourage minority students to focus on their best qualities. Using positive affirmation and key writing assignments, the research showed an increase in academic performances among all  the seventh grade classmates, regardless of ethnicity, participation in the intervention or previous performance.

“Results suggest that the benefits of psychological intervention do not end with the individual. Changed individuals can improve their social environments, and such improvements can benefit others regardless of whether they participated in the intervention,” according to the study.

Does this empowering environment make it easier for teachers to do their job? Does teaching students to honor their core values help redefine their goals and pave the way for greater academic achievement? How much does this reduce the stress in individual students, as well as, the classroom?  Cohen has found that African-American students can improve academically when the stress of negative stereotypes is reduced or eliminated with affirmations.

Powers said, “The main implication is that we may often underestimate the full effect of social programs and interventions if we only measure for direct effects among participants. The concentration of beneficiaries within a group can trigger effects as large or larger than the initial program or intervention.”

So as we enter the month of February, African-American History Month, isn’t it time we realize all our children have something great to offer and should all be celebrated for their unique and wonderful qualities?