Empowerment Through Difference: A Scalable Difference-Education Intervention Closes the Social Class Achievement Gap

Sarah S M Townsend, Nicole M Stephens, Stephanie Smallets, MarYam G. Hamedani

Research output: Working paper


Psychological research provides the tools for universities to acknowledge the importance of students’ backgrounds and close performance gaps. However, researchers have yet to produce a scalable intervention than accomplishes both of these goals. In the present work, we test an individually administered intervention that educates students about how difference matters as a route to improving the performance of first-generation students (i.e., students whose parents do not have 4-year college degrees). Across two studies (N = 270), first-year students read senior students’ and recent alumni’s stories about how they adjusted to college. In the difference-education condition, these stories linked students’ backgrounds to their college experiences (i.e., challenges, strengths, and strategies). Students who received the scalable intervention were able to learn how and why difference matters (Studies 1 and 2). Importantly, the intervention improved first-generation students’ grades, closing the social class achievement gap by closing the gap in academic empowerment (Study 2).
Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages46
StatePublished - 2016


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