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 combined
condition group, the mentors teach students two messages intended to help them
overcome stereotype threat. The first message is 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 new school. More information about
this message can be found in the LINKS write-up for the

attribution condition. The second message is that that intelligence is not
a fixed ability, but rather a flexible capacity that can increase with mental
work. More information about this message can be found in the

incremental condition write up. Mentors also provide advice to students
about study skills and any adjustment problems the student may have experienced
during the transition to junior high school.

Throughout the
program, students have access to a two web spaces. The first web space is a
compilation of web pages that focus on 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. The second web space contains web pages
about the flexible nature of intelligence. These web pages include animations of
how the brain works and scientific images of the brain. Some web pages include
catch phrases like, “The mind is a muscle; the more you use it, the stronger it
grows.” 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., & 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

here), incremental condition (described

here), combined (described above), 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 stereotype threat for girls. 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 combined condition did not have a
statistically significant impact on reading scores. The other two conditions,
the attribution and incremental, which taught the messages individually, did
have a positive impact on reading scores. 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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