Summary of Nudges That Help Struggling Students Succeed

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Negative stereotypes, such as, “African-Americans underperform in standardized tests,” or “women are bad at math” often turn into self-fulfilling prophecies for students. As University of California, Berkeley, public policy professor David L. Kirp notes, negative beliefs are at the heart of why many students fail to reach their potential. Luckily, new research suggests that short interventions aimed at transforming students’ mind-sets can boost performance. getAbstract recommends Kirp’s New York Times opinion piece to education professionals.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why a lack of intelligence is rarely the reason why students struggle,
  • How short psychological interventions can dramatically improve academic performance, and
  • Why black and Latino students particularly benefit from confidence-boosting interventions.

About the Author

David L. Kirp is a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley.



When adolescents struggle in school, it often has little to do with a lack of intelligence and more to do with false beliefs about their ability to master their schoolwork. Social psychologists have recently devised and tested three different types of short, targeted interventions aimed at changing students’ mind-sets. All three types of interventions have demonstrated powerful effects on academic performance:

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