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Have you ever felt like you didn’t fit in or belong at school? Many middle school students feel this way, so we tested an intervention designed to increase middle schoolers’ sense of belonging, and it worked! Read about our findings in PNAS: pnas.org/content/early/… 1/18
To help students deal with their belonging concerns, we conducted a randomized control trial to test whether an intervention to increase student belonging would help students who were just making the transition to middle school. 2/18
Our large-scale study included all 6th graders across an entire school district (N=1,304). Students who received our intervention got better grades, got in trouble less often at school, attended school more often, and reported a stronger sense of belonging at school. 3/18
Across the entire school district, our intervention reduced failing grades by 18%, absences by 12%, and disciplinary problems by 34%! 4/18
How did that translate into real-world metrics? For example, the intervention led to 507 fewer disciplinary referrals during the school year for this school district, which means teachers spent less time disciplining students, and students spent more time in class. 5/18
How did a 30-minute intervention lead to improved grades for an entire school year? By helping students build stronger relationships with their teachers and other students, experience less toxic performance pressure, and have more motivation to do well in their classes. 6/18
The intervention also reduced student disciplinary incidents and absences, which helped them do better in school. Basically, by helping students feel connected to their school, teachers, and peers they became more engaged and were more successful academically. 7/18
What was the intervention? Our intervention taught students a psychological strategy to overcome the common feeling of being uncertain about whether or not they fit in. We had them learn from the experiences of previous middle schoolers. 8/18
Students read a series of quotes provided by previous 6th graders that emphasized the message that doubts about belonging are common at first and short-lived, which was meant to help students understand that anxiety about belonging in middle school is common and normal. 9/18
Students were then asked to provide written responses to share their own stories and experiences. (See Appendix B for materials: pnas.org/highwire/files…) 10/18
This intervention helps students fight what we commonly call the “impostor syndrome,” which is an experience of internalized self-doubt where you feel like you don’t belong but everyone else does. 11/18
We know that as children become teenagers, they care more about how peers and adults view them. They are especially sensitive to social rejection, and they want to be respected by adults. Our intervention addresses those important teenage priorities and needs. 12/18
The cost of this intervention is low -- we estimate that a typical school district could deliver this intervention for about $1.35 per student. We hope that our intervention can be another tool in educators’ toolkits to help improve students’ academic experiences. 13/18
Thanks to the school district for letting us run this study, and thanks also to IES @IESResearch and Spencer Foundation @Spencer_Fdn @ProfNai for funding this research! 14/18
So much credit also goes to my AWESOME co-authors who conducted this study with me and were key in the analyses and write-up: fellow Stanford researcher: Jaymes Pyne @gardnercenter @StanfordEd and Paul Hanselman @UCIEducation @UCIsociology ! 15/18
As corresponding author, please contact me about any questions or requests! 16/18
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