(2014-06-07) Automated Interventions To Improve Graduation Rates

I'm not sure I'm convinced that the outcome-improvements found here (in College Education Graduation Rate-s) are sticky (e.g. extend out to the post-college Real World), but still, the idea of automated/online Brief Therapy smells related to Intelligent Software Assistant Habit-change efforts...

The treatment group read an article that laid out the scientific evidence against the entity theory (MindSet) of intelligence. “When people learn and practice new ways of doing algebra or statistics,” the article explained, “it can grow their brains — even if they haven’t done well in math in the past.” After reading the article, the students wrote a mentoring letter to future students explaining its key points. The whole exercise took 30 minutes, and there was no follow-up of any kind. But at the end of the semester, 20 percent of the students in the control group had dropped out of developmental math, compared with just 9 percent of the treatment group.

It’s an important point to remember about these interventions, and one Yeager often emphasizes: Even though the basic messages about belonging and ability recur from one intervention to the next, he and Walton believe that the language of the message needs to be targeted to the particular audience for each intervention.

A “belonging” treatment group read messages from current students explaining that they felt alone and excluded when they arrived on campus, but then realized that everyone felt that way and eventually began to feel at home. A “mind-set” treatment group read an article about the malleability of the brain and how practice makes it grow new connections, and then read messages from current students stating that when they arrived at U.T., they worried about not being smart enough, but then learned that when they studied they grew smarter. A combination treatment group received a hybrid of the belonging and mind-set presentations... Students in each group were asked, after clicking through a series of a dozen or so web pages, to write their own reflections on what they’d read in order to help future students. The whole intervention took between 25 and 45 minutes... the disadvantaged students who had experienced the belonging and mind-set messages did significantly better.

Yeager believes that the interventions are not in fact changing students’ minds — they are simply keeping them from overinterpreting discouraging events that might happen in the future. “We don’t prevent you from experiencing those bad things,” Yeager explains. “Instead, we try to change the meaning of them, so that they don’t mean to you that things are never going to get better.” (Story Telling)

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