The achievement gap between minority students and the general population is a considerable problem for schools and higher education institutions. While some researchers believe that the issue should be addressed by curriculum change, Jordt et al. (2017) suggest that academic underachievement may be due to psychological reasons. Thus, providing students with an environment that removes psychological barriers can improve the academic achievement of students. The present paper offers an overview and analysis of the article to indicate its strengths and weaknesses.
The article by Jordt et al. (2017) described quantitative research aimed at evaluating the values of affirmation intervention. The primary hypothesis was that students who feel at risk of being judged by stereotypes have lower academic performance in comparison with their White counterparts. Thus, removing the fear of being judged by stereotypes was expected to improve the academic achievement of minority students. The values affirmation intervention is a method designed to support the value, belonging, and credibility beliefs. Thus, it was expected that implementation of the intervention could decrease psychological stress and therefore improve academic achievement.
The researchers worked with a sample of 2,383 students that were chosen using three criteria. First, the students had to complete all four exams in the introductory biology classes. Second, the students needed to complete the value affirmation exercises twice during the quarter. Third, the students signed the form of informed consent. The researchers excluded international and Asian students from the sample, as these two categories of students were not homogeneous. The researchers collected the data by accessing retrospective data about the test scores of the students. In other words, the researchers utilized secondary data.
The researchers utilized regression analysis to answer the research questions. The participants were divided into two groups: experimental and control group. After that, a regression analysis was conducted with participation in the values affirmation intervention as one of the control variables. The researchers evaluated two regression models with different sets of explanatory variables. Both regression models confirmed that participation in the intervention was associated with a significant decrease in the achievement gap. However, considering that the achievement gap was not eliminated, the researchers supposed that there were other variables affecting the achievement gap of minority students.
The results of the research confirmed the hypothesis that academic achievement could be affected by the fear of being discriminated against. However, since the achievement gap was not closed completely, there appear to be other factors that affect academic achievement. Thus, future research should focus on finding what can be done to address the achievement gap between minority students and the general population. In particular, qualitative research should focus on determining all factors that may affect the academic achievement of minority students, while quantitative research should focus on testing the impact of these factors using rigorous scientific methods. At the same time, it would be beneficial to test a similar intervention to test its applicability to K-12 settings, as the achievement gap is a considerable bother on all level of education.
The research conducted by Jordt et al. (2017) revealed utilized solid methods, and no threats to validity were found. All the constructs are rationally operationalized using the experience of existing research. The hypotheses are based on a thorough analysis of previous research. At the same time, the article aims at closing the gap in knowledge identified after the analysis of literature. Thus, it can be concluded that the results are reliable. However, there are some improvements to the design that could be made to improve the reliability of results.
On the one hand, the researchers could have utilized experimental design to test the effectiveness of an intervention. According to Check and Schutt (2012), experimental research provides control over variables, improves the ability to determine causal relationships, and provide gold-standard results. However, such research can be influenced by the environment or be subject to human error (Check & Schutt, 2012). At the same time, experimental research is often expensive and time-consuming, which may limit the opportunity of researchers to conduct studies. Thus, it even though experimental design would be appropriate, Jordt et al. (2017) made a rational choice when selecting the methods. On the other hand, the researchers could have considered other control variables to avoid biased conclusions. For instance, demographical variables, such as social status and age, can have a significant impact on student achievement. Thus, it would be rational to check for covariates by including these variables in the regression model.
The research results have significant implications for educators and policymakers. In particular, policymakers should consider conducting values affirmation interventions in higher education institutions to address the achievement gaps between minority students and the general population. At the same time, educators should keep in mind that the academic achievement of minority students is affected by psychological factors; therefore, they should keep an emphasis on the atmosphere of inclusion and acceptance.
Check, J., & Schutt, R. (2012). Research methods in education. SAGE Publications, Inc.
Jordt, H., Eddy, S. L., Brazil, R., Lau, I., Mann, C., Brownell, S. E.,… & Freeman, S. (2017). Values affirmation intervention reduces achievement gap between underrepresented minority and white students in introductory biology classes. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 16(3), 1-10.