Closing the social-class achievement gap: a difference-education intervention improves first-generation students' academic performance and all students' college transition

Psychol Sci. 2014 Apr;25(4):943-53. doi: 10.1177/0956797613518349. Epub 2014 Feb 19.

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).

Keywords: culture; higher education; intervention; social class; sociocultural factors.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Achievement*
  • Adolescent
  • Education / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Social Adjustment*
  • Social Class*
  • Social Mobility
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Students*
  • Universities*