Quick Blog – Writing Exercise Aids Academic Performance

Can a short affirmation writing exercise help struggling primary school students increase their performance in math and science classes?

According to the November 26, 2010 episode of Scientific American’s 60-second Science podcast, such an exercise helps female students in college-level introductory physics courses.  At the beginning of the term and before exams, the study asked students in the experimental group to write down values that were important to them and why.  That group then showed significantly better performance on exams as compared to the control group, shrinking the gender gap in the experimental group.

This is similar to a study done with minority students that had the same results.  The affirmation-writing experimental group showed increased exam performance.

The principles at work don’t seem to have anything to do with gender or racial status.  Rather, it is asking people who consider themselves at a disadvantage to think about qualities that they value in themselves and express why those characteristics are important.  This puts the students in an “I can” frame of mind.

So, if you take high school, middle school, or even elementary school students that have become disadvantage by the perspective that they are “just not good at math” and have them complete a similar exercise, could their performance also improve?  In fact, not just math, what about the students that are “not good at spelling”, “slow readers”, or otherwise disadvantaged by accepting a performance-crushing attitude?  Could helping students focus on their good qualities allow them to forget that they think they are no good at school?

I think it is worth a shot.


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