Affirmations help narrow achievement gap: study

Thu Apr 16, 2009 3:26pm EDT
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By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Short writing assignments in which students discuss their most cherished value may be a powerful new tool to help struggling black youths reduce stress and boost their grades, U.S. researchers said on Thursday.

Twelve- and 13-year-old black students who did a series of 15-minute writing exercises saw their grades improve significantly over the course a year, and the benefit has persisted two years after the exercises stopped, they said.

"The effects were primarily among low-achieving African-American students," Geoffrey Cohen of the University of Colorado at Boulder, whose study appears in the journal Science, said in an audio interview on the Science website.

"For these children, there was an increase of almost half a grade point (0.4 grade points) in their overall grade point average across two years (based on a 4.0 scale)," he said.

"This was as apparent at the end of two years as it was at the commencement of the intervention."

Cohen said these self-affirmation writing assignments have been proven to reduce stress in other settings. His goal was to see if reducing school stress might improve school achievement.

The team gave the assignments to seventh-grade students at a U.S. public school.

They were given a list of values, such as relationships with friends and family, creativity, interest in music or sports. They were asked to pick the value that was most important to them and write a paragraph about it.   Continued...