Program

Feb 23, 2012

OVERVIEW

This mentoring
program was designed to reduce student anxiety experienced in situations where
one faces a stereotype about their social group (“stereotype threat”) and
improve standardized test scores. All student participants receive a college
student mentor that talks to them about various topics, such as transitioning to
junior high school and useful studying techniques. To reinforce what they learn,
mentors help students design a web page that portrays what the student had
learned that year from the mentor. The program had a positive impact on girls’
math scores and all students reading scores.

DESCRIPTION
OF PROGRAM

Target population: Seventh-grade students

This mentoring
program is designed to help students overcome “stereotype threat.” Stereotype
threat is a sense of anxiety experienced in situations where an individual faces
a stereotype about their social group. For example, stereotype threat may cause
girls to perform poorly on math tests or Hispanic students to perform poorly on
reading tests.

Mentors are college
students who are trained in a 3-hour session, during which they complete a
mentoring course and learn how to convey the message about the transition to
junior high school. Mentors work with approximately six students at a time.

The mentor program
lasts for one school year. Junior high students meet with their college student
mentors for one 90-minute session in November and one 90-minute session in
January. All other communication between students and their mentors occurs
through an email program created specifically for the program.

In the attribution
experimental group, the mentors explain to students that many junior high
students experience difficulties when they move to a new school, but they
usually bounce back after they become more familiar with the school. The mentors
explained that students sometimes think they are not capable of high academic
achievement when in reality the difficulties they experience upon entering
seventh-grade are due to the new environment. The mentors point out differences
between junior high and elementary school (e.g., changing classrooms each
period, meeting more students, and adjusting many teachers’ styles) and describe
their own difficulties during the transition to junior high. Overall, the
mentors encourage students to stop blaming themselves for their academic
difficulties and understand that these difficulties are probably a result of the
new environment. Mentors also provide advice to students about study skills and
any other adjustment problems the student may have experienced during the
transition to junior high school.

Throughout the
program, students have access to a special web space that compiles web pages
about the transition to junior high school. Some web pages include bar graphs
that show average school grades, school enjoyment, and school attendance
improving from seventh to eighth grade. Other web pages include testimonials
from other students about the difficulties of transitioning to junior high
school. At the end of the program, mentors help students create a web page
designed to teach other students about the transition to seventh grade. The
student is instructed to use the most convincing items from the special web
space on their web page.

EVALUATION(S) OF PROGRAM

Good, C., Aronson, J., and
Inzlicht, M. (2003). Improving adolescents’ standardized test performance: An
intervention to reduce the effects of stereotype threat.Applied
Developmental Psychology, 24
, 645-662.

Evaluated population: A total
of 138 students participated in the study. The sample was 67 percent Hispanic,
13 percent Black, and 20 percent White. Forty-five percent of students were
female, and 55 percent were male.

Approach: All students
enrolled in a computer skills class participated in the intervention. The
students were randomly assigned to one of four conditions: attribution condition
(described above), incremental condition (described

here), combined (described

here), or a control condition in which they learned about the perils of drug
use. At the end of the year, student took the Texas Assessment of Academic
Skills (TAAS), a statewide standardized test in reading and math.

Results: The intervention was
successful at eliminating the achievement gap between boys’ and girls’ math
scores. Boys in the control condition performed significantly better on the math
test than girls in the control condition (as was expected), but this gender gap
was not found for students in either of the experimental conditions. Girls in
the experimental conditions performed significantly better than girls in the
control condition on the math test. There was no impact on boys’ math scores
between conditions.

The intervention had a positive
impact on reading scores for all students. Students in the attribution condition
(described above) and incremental performed significantly better on the reading
test than students in the control condition. The sample was not diverse enough
to allow testing of subgroup impacts by race/ethnicity.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

References: Good, C., Aronson, J., & Inzlicht, M. (2003). Improving
adolescents’ standardized test performance: An intervention to reduce the
effects of stereotype threat.Applied Developmental Psychology, 24,
645-662.

KEYWORDS: Adolescents (12-17), Middle School, Males and Females (Co-ed), Rural, School-Based, Mentoring, Reading/Literacy, Mathematics, Academic Achievement/Grades

Program
information last updated 2/23/2012.

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