Study Shows That a One-Hour Seminar Helps to Reduce the Racial Gap in Academic Achievement

Gregory M. Walton, an assistant professor of psychology at Stanford University, believes that a one-hour seminar, developed by Stanford psychologists, can help eliminate the academic achievement gap between black and white students on predominantly white campuses. The one-hour course teaches students that everyone has difficulties in adjusting to college. These difficulties can be especially hard for black and minority students who don’t have large support groups on campus.

Walton explains: “We all experience small slights and criticisms in coming to a new school. Being a member of a minority group can make those events have a larger meaning. When your group is in the minority, being rejected by a classmate or having a teacher say something negative to you could seem like proof that you don’t belong, and maybe evidence that your group doesn’t belong either. That feeling could lead you to work less hard and ultimately do less well.”

Walton reports that when students of all races participated in the one-hour exercise, their grades went up and the racial gap in academic achievement shrunk by 52 percent. Grade point averages of black students who participated in the course improved by one third of a point. More than 20 percent of the black students who took the course ended up in the top 25 percent of their graduating class. In contrast, only 5 percent of black students who did not take the class graduated in the top 25 percent of their class.

Dr. Walton is a graduate of Stanford University and holds a Ph.D. in psychology from Yale. He has taught at Stanford since 2008. The results of Dr. Walton’s research were published in Science.