Discouraging students with positive affirmation

Using the United Nations’ human development index to determine whether to classify countries as less or more developed, a MIT study published in the 20 Jan. 2017 issue of Science has found that assuring learners from less developed countries (such as Egypt, India and Pakistan) that they belong and encouraging them to share their core values in a short 10 minute pre-study exercise, can help them better succeed in online courses.

In two experiments, random learners in two MOOCs were assigned to complete either a writing exercise in which they reflected on their personal values and how they were connected to the course material, or a reading exercise that presented them with testimonials from previous learners who initially were unsure about whether they belonged in that course but grew more confident over time.

Improvements in resulting completion rates exceeded 10%.

Interestingly, the exercise had a negative 9% effect on learners in more developed countries (such as Canada, the U.K. and the U.S.). In other words, heaping affirmation on students from more developed countries could actually make them less engaged with online learning.

For more detail read Carl Straumsheim’s article: “A Sense of Belonging” on Inside HigherEd.

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