Goyer, Cohen, et al., under review: Reflecting on stories about common challenges to belonging in the transition to middle school reduced disciplinary citations, belonging uncertainty, and stereotype threat among African American middle schoolers over a year
A version of the social-belonging intervention (Walton & Cohen, 2011) adapted for the transition to middle school was delivered to African American and White students in two class sessions at the outset of middle school (September and October of 6th-grade). In each session 6th-grade students read three stories from 7th-grade students about how worries about belonging and relationships with teachers are normal at first in middle school and improve with time. As compared to a randomized control group, this intervention reduced disciplinary citations among African American boys through the end of high school by 64%, reducing the gap with White boys by 83%. The intervention seemed to cut off a cycle of mistrust and negative interactions between African American boys and teachers in 6th and 7th grades as evidenced by an increasing rate of citations for incidents requiring subjective judgment within the school year in the control condition only. Additionally, the intervention reduced uncertainty about belonging over the course of middle school for African American boys, and protected their level of belonging and forestalled the emergence of high levels of stereotype threat at the end of 7th grade and into 8th grade.