Closing the Social Class Achievement Gap for First-Generation Students in Undergraduate Biology

Harackiewicz, Judith M.; Canning, Elizabeth A.; Tibbetts, Yoi; Giffen, Cynthia J.; Blair, Seth S.; Rouse, Douglas I.; Hyde, Janet S.
Publication Year:
Journal of Educational Psychology

Many students start college intending to pursue a career in the biosciences, but too many abandon this goal because they struggle in introductory biology. Interventions have been developed to close achievement gaps for underrepresented minority students and women, but no prior research has attempted to close the gap for first-generation students, a population that accounts for nearly a fifth of college students. We report a values affirmation intervention conducted with 798 U.S. students (154 first-generation) in an introductory biology course for majors. For first-generation students, values affirmation significantly improved final course grades and retention in the second course in the biology sequence, as well as overall GPA for the semester. This brief intervention narrowed the achievement gap between first-generation and continuing generation students for course grades by 50% and increased retention in a critical gateway course by 20%. Our results suggest that educators can expand the pipeline for first-generation students to continue studying in the biosciences with psychological interventions.

These links are being provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only; they do not constitute an endorsement or an approval by Forward F1rst of any of the products, services or opinions of the corporation or organization or individual. Forward F1rst bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality or content of the external site or for that of subsequent links. Contact the external site for answers to questions regarding its content.