Abstract: At all levels of education, the racial achievement gap in performance between Black and Hispanic/Latino students and their White peers stubbornly persists. While the causes of this gap are numerous and interrelated, one theory posits that students from underrepresented racial groups may face stereotype threat, meaning that fear of failing and thereby fulfilling negative group stereotypes leads to anxiety and suboptimal cognitive performance. Though low-cost value affirmation interventions have been shown to reduce achievement gaps in some classroom settings, these findings have not been consistently replicated. In this study, we test the efficacy of this intervention among a new sample of students, those enrolled in a community college in the Midwest. At the beginning of the fall 2016 semester, students in English courses (N = 1,115, 59 course sections) were randomly assigned to short writing exercises that were either self-affirming or neutral. Using administrative data collected at the end of the term, treatment and control students were compared on a range of outcomes that included course GPA, overall GPA, and course persistence. Overall, we find little evidence of a positive effect of this one-time affirmation of social identity. Moderation analyses, however, show heterogeneous effects across course sections, suggesting that the classroom setting may play a role in the interaction between social identity and student outcomes.
About the speaker: Dominique Baker, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Education Policy in the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development and an Associate in the John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies at Southern Methodist University. Her research focuses on the way that education policy shapes and influences the access and success of underrepresented students in higher education. She primarily investigates student financial aid, affirmative action, and policies that influence the ability to create an inclusive & equitable campus climate. She earned her Ph.D. in Higher Education Leadership and Policy Studies from Peabody College at Vanderbilt University and a master’s degree and bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia. Prior to pursuing her Ph.D., Dominique served as an Assistant Dean in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions at the University of Virginia and as a member of the Virginia College Advising Corps.
About CIERS: The objective of the Causal Inference in Education Research Seminar (CIERS) is to engage students and faculty from across the university in conversations around education research using various research methodologies. This seminar provides a space for doctoral students and faculty from social science disciplines to discuss current research and receive feedback on works-in-progress. Discourse across schools and departments creates a more complete community of education scholars, and provides a networking opportunity for students enrolled in a variety of academic programs who share common research interests. Our regular meeting schedule is Wednesday mornings from 8:30 to 10 am in Weill 3240. Check out our website to learn more and to sign up for the mailing list.