Closing the Social-Class Achievement Gap: A Difference-Education Intervention Improves First-Generation Students' Academic Performance and All Students' College Transition

Nicole M. Stephens, Mar Yam G. Hamedani, Mesmin Destin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

229 Scopus citations

Abstract

College students who do not have parents with 4-year degrees (first-generation students) earn lower grades and encounter more obstacles to success than do students who have at least one parent with a 4-year degree (continuing-generation students). In the study reported here, we tested a novel intervention designed to reduce this social-class achievement gap with a randomized controlled trial (N = 168). Using senior college students' real-life stories, we conducted a difference-education intervention with incoming students about how their diverse backgrounds can shape what they experience in college. Compared with a standard intervention that provided similar stories of college adjustment without highlighting students' different backgrounds, the difference-education intervention eliminated the social-class achievement gap by increasing first-generation students' tendency to seek out college resources (e.g., meeting with professors) and, in turn, improving their end-of-year grade point averages. The difference-education intervention also improved the college transition for all students on numerous psychosocial outcomes (e.g., mental health and engagement).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)943-953
Number of pages11
JournalPsychological Science
Volume25
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2014

Keywords

  • culture
  • higher education
  • intervention
  • social class
  • sociocultural factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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