Sharing accounts from people of similar backgrounds can normalize doubts and increase the perception that “people like us” belong in school settings. In one experiment with college students, freshman students of color read testimonials of upperclassmen of color describing their initial doubts, and how with time they were able to feel more comfortable and develop new relationships. The subjects subsequently reported higher effort and engagement in academic behaviors (1, 2).
Teachers can use this model to actively seek opportunities to connect their students with others who have found success and demonstrate that their academic potential is expandable rather than fixed. Students who see other examples from people with similar backgrounds are more likely to develop a sense of self-efficacy.
Concrete steps that teachers can take include:
- Collecting short testimonials from former students and alumni that asks for reflections on their challenges in school, and how they persisted.
- These can be written, video, or even "in-person" testimonials.
- Finding opportunities to present testimonials to current students
- Building time for students to reflect on their current challenges, name their current uncertainties, and normalize the feeling of doubt that comes naturally to all learners.
- Cohen, G. L., & Garcia, J. (2008). Identity, belonging, and achievement: A model, interventions, implications. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17(6), 365-369.
- Walton, G.M., & Cohen, G.L. (2007). A question of belonging: Race, social fit, and achievement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 92(1), 82-96.