When students feel they don’t belong, it has “devastating effects on student motivation,” said Stanford psychologist Geoffrey Cohen in a talk at Yale recently. First-generation college students, women in math and science fields and African-Americans and Latinos on mostly white/Asian campuses may feel an “apartness” that makes it harder to engage in class and keep trying.
Transitions — from elementary school to junior high, from high school to college — are critical, writes Annie Murphy Paul.
Three interventions can counter the lack of belonging, says Cohen.
Students receiving feedback on an essay are told, “I’m giving you these comments because I have high standards and I know you can meet them.”
Students experiencing a transition are told, “It’s normal and natural not to feel comfortable in a new situation. It will get easier.”
Students facing a challenge are asked to write about a value that’s important to them, an exercise that leads them to feel that “I’m bigger than this. This challenge doesn’t define me.”
After a one-hour discussion of the college transition,black college students earned significantly higher grades, shrinking the minority achievement gap by 52 percent, according to research by Cohen and a colleague.