Stanford psychologists find that brief exercises early in middle school can improve students’ relationships with their teachers, increase their sense of belonging and reduce teachers’ reports of discipline issues among black and Latino boys for up to seven years.
BY MELISSA DE WITTE
Brief exercises that address middle school students’ worries about belonging can help black and Latino boys develop better relationships with teachers and sharply reduce their risk of receiving discipline citations years into the future, Stanford psychologists find.
Their research, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that guided exercises in two or more 25-minute class sessions early in sixth or seventh grade reduced teacher reports of discipline issues – such as for disrespect, defiance or insubordination – among black and Latino boys by 57 percent over two years in one study. In a second study, the reduction for black boys was 65 percent from sixth grade through 12th grade.
The researchers include Stanford psychologists J. Parker Goyer, lead author and a postgraduate fellow; Gregory Walton, the Michael Forman University Fellow in Undergraduate Education and associate professor of psychology at Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences; and Geoffrey Cohen, the James G. March Professor in Organizational Studies in Education and Business and a professor of psychology. They hope that their findings can help address the discipline disparity between black and Latino students and other groups. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, in 2013-14, black boys represented 7.9 percent of public school students but 25.2 percent of students who were suspended.