First-generation college students (students for whom neither parent has a 4-year college degree) earn lower grades and worry more about whether they belong in college, compared with continuing-generation students (who have at least 1 parent with a 4-year college degree). We conducted a longitudinal follow-up of participants from a study in which a values-affirmation intervention improved performance in a biology course for first-generation college students, and found that the treatment effect on grades persisted 3 years later.
We replicated and extended prior research investigating a theoretically-guided intervention based on expectancy-value theory designed to enhance student learning outcomes (e.g., Hulleman & Harackiewicz, 2009). First, we replicated prior work by demonstrating that the utility value intervention, which manipulated whether students made connections between the course material and their lives, increased both interest and performance of low-performing students in a college general education course. Second, we extended prior research by both measuring and manipulating one possible pathway of intervention effects: the frequency with which students make connections between the material and their lives.
The need for students trained in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) jobs is growing rapidly in the United States, yet students do not enroll in the necessary courses to prepare for STEM careers. In a randomized controlled trial, parents in the utility–value intervention group received materials detailing the importance of STEM for their adolescents in high school. The intervention increased mathematics and science ACT scores and course-taking in high school. This greater high-school STEM preparation was associated, 5 y later, with increased STEM career pursuit.
Can classroom activities that encourage students to connect course materials to their lives increase student motivation and learning? In a randomized field experiment with high school students, we found that a relevance intervention, which encouraged students to make connections between their lives and what they were learning in their science courses, increased interest in science and course grades for students with low success expectations. The results have implications for the development of science curricula and theories of motivation.