Mar 14





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     Education has a pivotal role in modeling a child and creating a strong foundation to become an important aspect of  creating society. When you are little, the only way you usually learn to work through issues is with siblings, cousins, or daycare or preschool friends. As you get older, education is important in learning life skills in relationships, working together, individuality and social learning which are all important components taught in school. Education is always changing with the media having a lot to do with education in 2014 . The media and technology such as the internet, computers and cell phones now has enabled students to be accessible to immense amounts of information at a moment’s notice. That has changed the entire dynamics of education and allowed for more outside information, both good and bad to come into play.

          Academic self concept is important in education and helps to encourage students to achieve success in school, hopefully positive. ( Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2012).My niece is a perfect example of this. Her family recently moved her to a private school because she felt that she wasn’t given enough motivation and she is really excelling at her new school. She constantly wants to learn more and actually wants to take tests to see where she is on the scale and that motivates her to want to do better. Her reciprocal relationship with herself and her success in school is why her motivation to keep doing better is the reason why she does so well in school and I believe will inevitably get her to her goal  to become a college math professor like her father ( I only wish I had as much motivation as she has!).

           The experiment from Rosenthal and Jacobson , Pygmalion in the Classroom had astounding results which were a bit upsetting to me. The fact that this teacher actually treated the “above-average” students better by giving them more positive feedback and focus and a chance to answer in class and to get more time is both unfair and shows the impact of stereotyping.  If this were the case, then many teachers may think that certain ethnic groups, such as African Americans were actually a waste of time to teach and therefore aren’t even given a chance to thrive. What if a child is a slow learner and may not “get it as fast” when they are younger. If a teacher decides they aren’t worth the time then that child may never live to their full potential. This, in my opinion, does show where expectations of the teachers may impact their performance, academically. In doing so, the self-fulfilling prophecy occurs because what a teacher expects of a student impacts how much time and effort they put into a student and that student is affected exponentially. The student may feel that they don’t matter or that they can’t do anything and therefore may not try or their self-concept will be lessened. This may be one reason why African American‘s don’t do as well in school.

           A correlation exists between getting rid of poverty by educating our citizens. With education comes the availability to make more money and increase their quality of living. Education gives individuals a choice and en powers them to organize and manage their life and the lives of others. One of my favorite movies is from Dangerous Minds whose main character, Louanne Johnson,  played by Michelle Pfeiffer is a small petit ex-marine who breaks the stereotype of a fragile pretty girl whose ways to encourage students to want to learn to better themselves. These students from a tough inner city school who most teachers considered the “class from Hell” just needed someone to actually care what they were doing with their lives. While some of her techniques might have been over-the-top, these students were tough and needed and extra push because of years of neglect  from many of the other teachers. This teacher taught the students that they must be responsible for themselves even if there are factors which may limit them, there is still an option to overcome obstacles which in this case, were socioeconomic status. There are many issues with education that stand as obstacles such as rooms which are overcrowded, lack of up-to-date textbooks and supplies  so many rigorous rules set in place. If there is nothing on and you are searching for something that is both inspiring and uplifting, take the time to watch it on You Tube.

           The 1968 experiment with Ms. Elliot was both surprising and very interesting            ( Frontline, 1985).  I believe that  this experiment gave light to  how easily discrimination could be lessened or eradicated if we taught our children at a very young age what discrimination and stereotyping really is. I know myself included, I tend to learn a lot more when I participate in something versus when I just hear it. I thought it was interesting how  some fourteen years later, they all met back up and described how this affected their futures, not just then, but when they became adults. One girl was speaking about how the class experiment stuck with her and that she saw black people as people who may look differently, but  are the same. When she said she hugged a black man, she got stares and looks of apprehension, but she didn’t care. One little boy learned that when he did punch his little friend in the stomach because he didn’t wear a collar, he learned that violence is unnecessary because it’s not like he felt better doing it. And when the “shoe was on the other foot” it didn’t feel good to feel like an “outcast.” These children were remarkable in that little 3rd graders learned in two days a valuable lesson that just because we look different on the outside doesn’t mean we are any different on the inside. When the experiment was over, there were feelings of happiness and laughter from all the children when they decided to come back as one group and throw away the collars. One little boy tore his to shreds, symbolic of tearing down racism and hatred.

          I believe that an important intervention to discrimination or stereotyping is exposure to different cultures and environments.  The experiment of 1968 clearly showed how impactful discrimination can become when  individuals are separated into groups where one group is “supposed” to be superior to the other. Education is one of the most important components to shaping an individual and therefore there needs to be a constant emphasis on altering and improving education to fit the time. As many of us are familiar with cutbacks in education from eliminating art and music classes and taking away sports and even my nieces and nephews don’t have bus transportation  at their disposal because of the lack of funding for schools. Education is something that I think we all take for granted because many other countries can’t even educate their students or supplies don’t even include simple things that we take for granted like books, papers, pencils, etc. Education  is used every day in some way. Children are our future and education is an important component to their success!

Frontline. (1985). A Class Divided. Retrieved online at: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/divided/

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2005). Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems. SAGE Publications.


Mar 14

Academic Self-Concept: 5th Grade

I don’t mean to brag, but fifth grade was my year. I made the honor roll, achieved a special recognition for keeping a 4.0 in social studies throughout, had vastly improved in orchestra (I played the violin), and I had made a few new friends. Don’t be fooled, my fifth grade year didn’t start out as seamlessly as it sounds. After all, in years prior I was the girl who was eliminated from the school spelling bee for confusing the letters Y and W. There was also that one time when I tripped on the way up to the chalkboard when called upon to try a difficult math problem. As embarrassed as I was, there was also a tinge of relief to have avoided the math problem all together. So how did I get on the right track to achieve success and thrive in the fifth grade? Recognizing my potential, an inspired teacher named Mrs. Gibson, crafted an intervention plan that would get me on the right track. She included my parents so that the approach was consistent. She set me up with new contacts (a new friend named Liana), and gave me extra homework. My instructions were to start having fun with my schoolwork, because I was more than capable of doing it.

While this method seems to fall under the category of external regulation (influence from a teacher and parents), I would argue that it also included some self-determination (desire to achieve derived from internal motivation) (Schneider, 2012). The positive, yet stern push from my teacher helped me dust off a tired academic self-concept. My struggles with math seemed so overwhelming at the time; I didn’t think I would ever grasp fractions and percentages! With extra practice and a positive frame of mind, I began to believe that I could keep up with my classmates and pass my math level tests. Pinxten et al., (2014) found that the more positive an individual (grades 3-7) was about their math ability, the more they achieved in the subject. Further, with a positive outlook on math performance they were not as negatively influenced by the hours of study required.

Many times outside encouragement is needed to propel one’s academic self-concept. In turn, self-determination will take over and the individual will experience positive results more frequently. As I approach my final semester (Fall 2014) as a World Campus student, I look back with fondness to power through my most challenging courses of my academic career. I remind myself of the strategies I used to enjoy my coursework as a fifth grader, and consistent with Schneider et al., (2012), these methods seem to work at any age.


Pinxten, M., Marsh, H.W., De Fraine, B., Van Den Noorgate, W., & Van Damme, J. (2014). Enjoying mathematics or feeling competent in mathematics? Reciprocal effects on mathematics achievement and perceived math effort expenditure. British Journal of Education Psychology, 84(1), 152-174

Schneider, F.W., Gruman, J.A., & Coutts, L.M., (2012) . Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems. London: Sage Publications.


Mar 14

Education, policy and politics

Education is among the most politically debated subjects in the United States. There are many facets to the education argument. For instance, the how-to best educate people of varying ages, levels (pre-school to post-graduate), social economic status, and special education needs are part of the education debate. In addition, factors such as teachers, environment and parent teacher cooperation are also considered in the debate. Considering the effects of crime, pregnancy, learning disabilities and drug use and dropout rates are among important variables to the debate as well. An issue that received presidential attention on January 25, 2011 in the State of the Union address to Congress and to the nation was education and the issue of student drop-outs. In the address, President Obama advocated for States to require High School students to remain in school until graduation, or until they reach the age of 18. The President’s point of contention for a mandatory attendance age policy is the belief that students that are not allowed to walk away from their education are more likely to complete school and receive their diploma. President Obama believes that making sure that High School students remain on campus is a determining factor in graduation.

On the other hand,

In the January 29, 2012 issue of Chicago Tribune in the News Columns editorial Steve Chapman provides a perspective to President Obama’s State of the Union address on the topic of mandatory attendance age proposal. As Steve Chapman sees it, the proposed mandatory attendance age policy is wrong for all High School students in the United States. Chapman paints a grim picture of children being forced to endure harsh physical and emotional conditions in High School. Chapman argues that if students who typically dropout are required by law to remain, these students will be unlikely to learn and unfairly exhaust the resources of teachers. Furthermore, these disgruntled students become a disturbance to other students who want to be in school and a daily interruption to the learning process. Chapman offers an alternative — make education improvements so that students are more likely to stay in school and more kids will “choose” to stay in school and not opt to dropout. Chapman is convinced that the President’s policy proposal will fail because it does not take into account students who are better off dropping out. Chapman brings into question freedom to choose and poses the question of whether (in some circumstances) students should be allowed to drop out early. Chapman cites that some students are better if they do drop out early. To substantiate his claim Chapman cites a study from John Hopkins University where six states raised the mandatory attendance age: three saw no increase in graduation rates and one saw a decline. Chapman also points to Nobel laureate economist at the University of Chicago who specializes in education and who is skeptical of the proposal. Chapman claims that the highest dropout rates are in the worst schools and those who graduate from these schools graduate barely able to read. Chapman questions how it is that President Obama believes that these students would want to stay in school even longer and moreover “reap a rich harvest of learning.” Perhaps the most controversial argument Chapman makes is that of the consequences to students who do not drop out, but are doing “the right thing.” Chapman boldly states that, “One of the best things you can do for students who want to do the right thing is to remove those who would rather goof off or make trouble.” Chapman does not believe that the majority ought to sacrifice for the minority. In Chapman’s eyes, if a person is headed in the wrong direction, it doesn’t help to keep going in that direction. Furthermore, Chapman notes that most States already allow teens to drop out at age 16 or 17. Chapman is not only advocating against the proposed mandatory requirement, but also questioning the wisdom behind the push. Chapman does not advocate that kids drop out of school. Chapman believes that kids should stay in school for economic and future employment opportunity. For Chapman, the question has to do with questioning whether the kids who otherwise would drop out are better off being forced to finish high school.

Chapman’s alternative to President Obama’s proposed mandatory attendance age policy — to take the money intended for enforcement of the proposed policy and utilize it instead for “education improvements” –seems rather simplistic to me. The what, when, who, and how much is not explored. For instance, should an inner city school receive more money? Should performance be the indicator for distribution of funds? Who decides basic, yet complex questions, such as what is fair? The editorial is compelling, but Chapman’s point of view is narrow and simplistic. I don’t believe that President Obama has the wrong remedy for dropouts nor is Steve Chapman completely wrong; I think that it’s a complex issue with no easy answers or a simplistic solution. Perhaps some sort of hybrid solution based on the specific needs of a community and school district may prove to be better suited to meet the current and future challenges of educating students. I do not believe Chapman goes far enough to argue the complexities involved. There are too many factors not considered. For example, the differences between inner city, suburb, poor, rich, and privileged, and underprivileged students must be considered. Understanding different environments such as inner city student’s needs and suburb student’s needs is important because they each will have a different and unique solution. The effects of crime, pregnancy, learning disabilities and drugs on dropout rates must be thoroughly understood in order to design the appropriate interventions. I don’t believe in a one size fits all model, but rather allowing local autonomy to thrive and chart the course of their own educational destiny. Therein lies the debate: how much and should the Federal government impose policies and regulations on education? How much autonomy should each school have in how they educate? I don’t believe President Obama’s proposal nor Chapman’s alternative are sufficient to satisfy the educational needs of the country. While Obama may offer “no parole,” Chapmen may be offering “too much autonomy.”




Mar 14

School Violence

It appeared to be a normal day at E.O. Green Junior High in Oxnard, California, but turned out to be a tragic day for many of the community members and peers of Larry King. On the morning of February 12, 2008, the unthinkable happened at the school. Brandon McInerney, 14, shot his classmate, Larry King, 15, in front of the entire class. An HBO documentary titled Valentine Road shined a light on many social issues. Two days later, on Valentine’s Day, Larry had died as a result of the shooting. This is an incident no one should witness, but sadly, this had becomes many people’s reality. And most recently, the tragic shooting at the Sandy Hook elementary school. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1-2 percent of all homicides among school-aged child occur on the grounds of the school or on the way to and from school or during an event. Although a vast majority will never experience deadly violence at school, 1-2 percent is still too many. It is difficult to understand and explain these acts of violence, but Schneider et. al provides some understanding on this social issue.

The importance of understanding factors that can lead to school violence is crucial in developing an intervention strategy to reduce and prevent school violence. First, males are more like than females to be involved in school violence, bullying is a common cause; usage of weapons is more like among high school students rather than elementary school children, and less than 15 percent brought guns to school (Schneider, Gruman, Coutts, 2012). Also, there are many psychological risk factors that can lead to school violence such as lower levels of moral reasoning, associated with aggressive behavior during childhood and adolescents, and family dysfunctions. Many of the psychological risk factors pertained to Brandon. His mother and father were both drug addicts, he was abused by his father, and had to live with his abusive father because his mother was unable to care for him. Most importantly, he had low levels of moral reasoning. As he left the house, Brandon actually forgot the gun and went back in his house to get it. This is a prime example of lack of moral reasoning, but considering his background one would image he was not properly taught and educated on decision making. By his hands, he caused a severe amount of grief, psychological, and emotional damage to many people.

School shootings affect everyone: administration, teachers, students, and anyone in or around the school and community. Those affected need much support to cope and grieve with tragedy and through psychological support, one can properly grieve. Traumatic experiences pose psychological challenges to the recovery process. Individuals may develop post-traumatic stress disorder, become depressed, and develop physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, and change of appetite. Sadly, the students of E.O. Green Junior High did not have the psychological support they needed; it showed they had difficulty in grieving and dealing with the tragedy. The teacher that was in the class later revealed suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and ultimately, resigned from her position. As from psychological support, the American Psychological Association (APA), provides tips about dealing with traumatic school shootings: talk about it, strive for balance, turn it off and take a break, honor your feelings, take care of yourself, help others, be productive, and remember grieving is a long process. Everyone individual is unique and grieve differently, but it takes a societal effort to fully prevent individuals grieving over school shooting.

School violence can be prevented, but it takes much effort. There can be several intervention strategies in reducing school violence. Programs should be created to address the overall school environment, academic performance and expectations, and behavior management techniques (Schnieder, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). Also, it’s important to address social context (e.g., bullying) because this tends to be how aggressive behavior occurs. Overall, school violence should be talked about before it occurs. Students should be encouraged to talk about social problems they may have and conflicts with other students. Everyone needs to take a proactive stance on reducing this social problem. Although school shootings do not occur often, they occur. Children should feel safe in schools and we, as society, need to make every school a violent-free environment.


American Psychological Association (n.d). Managing your distress in the aftermath of a shooting. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/mass-shooting.aspx
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013) School-associated student homicides—United States, 1992–2006. MMWR 2008, :33–36.

Dubreuil, J. & Martinez-Ramundo, D. (2011). Boy who shot classmate at age 14 will be retried as adult. ABC News. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/US/eighth-grade-shooting-larry-king-brandon-mcinerney-boys/story?id=14666577

HBO Documentary: Valentine Road. Retrieved from http://valentineroaddocumentary.com/

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., and Coutts, L. M. (Eds.) (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. ISBN 978-1412976381

Mar 14

Online Education? Or Brick and Mortar College?

When exploring college options, an increasing number of students are opting for online educational options.  As college tuition continues to rise and colleges continue to add more and more majors for students to choose from, deciding which college to attend is becoming harder and harder.  But is college education presented online a good option and does it provide the same quality educational environment as its brick and mortar counterpart?  It turns out, the presentation of course material and messaging options may make all the difference.

In one study, students were found to be far more likely to participate regularly with the professor as well as other students in an online environment when the interface made doing so more efficient (Shin and Chan, 2004).  This includes showing on the main page of the students’ login page whether new messages exist.  Student with this type of interface were found to generate far more messages to their teacher and peers than did students who participated in colleges with a less message-friendly interface (2004).  Also important to the educational environment is the presentation of the course material.  As is to be expected, students performed better when audio messages were present from their professor and increased their level of participation (2004).  This is important because students were more likely to be successful in an online college environment the more they participated in the online learning environment (2004).  In addition, students who participate more in their college environment, be it online or in person, are more likely to associate closely with the college attended and to feel pride in the college itself (2004).  When students participate whole-heartedly in a college environment that is designed to increase communication and student participation, a distance learning environment should produce the same quality education as a brick and mortar college.  The choice between attending college on campus or online will likely always come down to lifestyle, not necessarily the educational options or majors available.  For many students, obtaining a degree online may be the only feasible possibility.

Overall, it is likely the case that student preparedness and dedication is the largest deciding factor as far as educational success is concerned.  A student who is not prepared to put in the appropriate amount of time and effort required to succeed will likely not be any more successful in a traditional college environment as they would be in an online learning environment.  However, it is also important that colleges recognize what course format works best for students and design the distance learning environment to provide the best possible chance of success for all students.

Shin, N. and Chan, J. (2004).  Direct and indirect effects of online learning on distance education. British Journal of Educational Technology, 35, 275-288

Mar 14

Reducing the effects of stereotype threats

image: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/07/opinion/sunday/intelligence-and-the-stereotype-threat.html?_r=0

image: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/07/opinion/sunday/intelligence-and-the-stereotype-threat.html?_r=0

A stereotype threat is defined as the fear or anxiety that an individual can experience when they’re confronted with confirming a negative stereotype about their group. (Schneider, et al, 2012) When this anxiety is experienced in an academic setting it can cripple a student and prevent the development of a positive self-concept. (Schneider, et al, 2012)  Researchers Steele and Aronson (1995) conducted four studies that tested the correlation of culturally applied negative stereotypes on test performance.

Steele and Aronson postulated that a stereotype threat is a self-evaluative threat. (Steele and Aronson, 1995, p. 797 ) Meaning the very existence of negative labels can elicit certain responses and thus cause for the receiver of this threat a disruption. (Steele and Aronson, 1995, p. 797 ) There are several groups that are often stereotyped. Some of the more common stereotypes are: black and latino groups and individuals from lower socioeconomic statuses are often labeled as underachievers and women are believed to be not as proficient in math.

What can happen in an academic environment is a student who is experiencing a threat may exhibit anxiety that could disrupt their academic performance. If this threat persists a student may even go so far as to redefine their self-concept by detaching their self worth or personal identity from their scholastic achievement. (Steele and Aronson, 1995, p. 797 ) When this behavioral mechanism takes place an individual may lose interest and motivation.  (Steele and Aronson, 1995, p. 797 )  Researcher Steele suggests that prolonged exposure to these negative threats can not only hinder academic ability but cause an internalized “inferiority anxiety.”

There have been several studies conducted that have focused on the role of anxiety in stereotype threats. A study done by  Blascovich et al. (2001) found that when African American students were taking tests their blood pressure rose faster and remained higher than the blood pressure of White students and non-threatened African Americans. (Blascovich, Spencer, Quinn & Steele, 2001) The under threat African American students also reportedly did worse on the Remote Associates Test.

Although stereotype threats seem hard to avoid there have been well documented suggestions that could significantly improve any academic environment.  In 2009 the National Center for Educational Evaluation conducted three studies and found these social psychological strategies that helped improved academic performance:

  • Create interventions that encourage students to have a more open-minded approach to learning. Helping them understand that we all learn at different ways and that stumbling is just part of the process.

  • Encourage students to have a well rounded school experience and teach them to value other aspects of their personal identity. This will encourage a sense of self worth and a positive self concept.

  • Help students and teachers understand stereotype threats and how to address them when they arise in an academic environment. Making students and teachers aware of the existence of stereotype threats has been shown to positively impact student test performance.


Ben-Zeev, T., Fein, S., & Inzlicht, M. (2005). Arousal and stereotype threat.Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 41(2), 174-181.


Blascovich, J., Spencer, S. J., Quinn, D., & Steele, C. (2001). African Americans And High Blood Pressure: The Role Of Stereotype Threat. Psychological Science,12(3), 225-229.


Reducing Threat in classrooms: a review of social psychological intervention studies on improving the achievement of black students. (n.d.). Issues & Answers. Retrieved March 27, 2014, from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED506004.pd


Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2005). Applied social psychology: understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: SAGE Publications.

Steele, C. M., & Aronson, J. (1995). Stereotype Threat And The Intellectual Test Performance Of African Americans..Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69(5), 797-811.

Mar 14

Teacher and Peer Influence on Academic Performance

Peer and teacher influence are key components in successfully completing school. It is no wonder then, that discrimination and stereotyping from a teacher or fellow classmate may be detrimental to one’s education. Schneider, Gruman and Coutts (2012) outlined the factors that contribute to student academic performance, highlighting teacher expectations and student interactions. Rosenthal and Jacobsen (1968) proved that teacher expectations can influence student academic outcome by simply suggesting certain students have more or less potential than others. This experiment supported the idea that teachers may fall prey to the self-fulfilling prophecy by believing some students have higher IQs and therefore, higher academic potential. Teachers take this information and subconsciously treat these students with more attention, encouragement, challenging material, feedback and opportunity (Rosenthal & Jacobsen, 1968). In return, the students identified as “bloomers” will achieve more and be more successful therefore, confirming the teacher’s expectations. This becomes a major issue however, when expectations are based on unfair stereotypes.

Cephas (2013) reported that African American students often perform poorer in school due to the stereotypes and labels that surround their race. More specifically, African American students were suspended/expelled more often, received less encouragement/positive expectations and were even more likely to be placed in special education classes (Cephas, 2013). Cephas (2013) was even so bold as to say African Americans are set up to fail in the education system. African American students enter the school system with the same excitement and potential as many of their peers, regardless of race (Cephas, 2013). However stereotyping and discrimination, even at a subconscious level, can cause unequal treatment in racial minority education (Cephas, 2013).

Additionally, peer interaction is highly influential on academic performance. The peer role is key in learning to form friendships, work in groups, resolve conflict, etc. (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2012). Furthermore, Schneider et al. (2012) note the relationship between the social aspect of development and the outcome of academic performance. Difficulties within the social component of education can hinder the academic achievement of students especially in situations of rejection or discrimination (Bullock, 1992; Coolihan, Fantuzzo, Mendez & McDermott, 2000; Schneider et al., 2012; Veronneau & Vitaro, 2007). Stewart et al. (2003) reviewed Jane Elliott’s “blue eyes/brown eyes” exercise in which students of a third grade class were divided according to eye color. These students were taught that one color was superior to the children with the other eye color and eventually, this notion lead students to discriminate against their peers who were different  from them (Peters, 1987). A simple comment by the teacher completely changed the behavior and opinions of the students. What happens then when a parent or influential role model makes stereotypical or discriminatory comments? Although the nation may pride itself on how far society has progressed in regards to racism, many stereotypes still exist. These stereotypes have the potential to make their way through classrooms and contaminate the learning environment.

Junn, Grier and Behrens (2001) propose a simple and effective solution: educate students and increase their understanding of prejudice and stereotyping. Their research revealed that by motivating students to become more aware of their schemas and discuss these schemas in a group setting, negative attitudes, stereotypes and prejudices were decreased (Junn et a., 2001). Awareness and understanding helped students realize these often subconscious attitudes that lead to discriminatory behaviors.  Perhaps a similar method of enhancing awareness should be implemented in teacher training as well to reduce stereotypical attitudes and prevent the self-fulfilling prophecy from occurring through teacher expectations. Together, interventions to overcome stereotyping and prejudice are key in ensuring the success of students from all backgrounds in the academic environment.


Bullock, J. (1992). Children without friends: Who are they and how can teachers help? Childhood Education, 69, 92-96. doi:10.1080/00094056.1992.10520898.

Cephas, J. (2013). Six psychological concepts of why African American males under achieve academically. ProQuest Information and Learning, 74(4). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/docview/1449320746?accountid=13158.

Coolihan, K., Fantuzzo, J., Mendez, J. & McDermott, P. (2000). Preschool peer interactions and readiness to learn: Relationships between classroom peer play and learning behaviors and conduct. Jounrla of Educational Psychology, 92, 458-465. doi:10.1037/00220663.92.3.458.

Junn, E., Grier, L., & Behrens, D. (2001). Playing “Sherlock Holmes”: Enhancing students’ understanding of prejudice and stereotyping. Teaching of Psychology, 28(2), 121-124. doi:10.1207/S15328023TOP2802_12.

Peters, W. (1987). A class divided: Then and now. New Haven , CT : Yale University Press.

Rosenthal, R. & Jaconbsen, L. (1968). Pygmalion in the classroom: Teacher expectation and pupils’ intellectual development. New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., and Coutts, L. M. (Eds.) (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Stewart, T., LaDuka, J., Bracht, C., Sweet, B., & Gamarel, K. (2003). Do the “eyes” have it? A program evaluation of Jane Elliott’s “Blue-Eyes/Brown-Eyes” diversity training exercise. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 33(9), 1898-1921. doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.2003.tb02086.

Veronneau, M. & Vitaro, F.  (2007). Social experiences with peers and high school graduation: A review of theoretical and empirical research. Educational Psychology, 27, 419-445. doi:10.1080/01443410601104320.

Mar 14

Effects of School Shootings

Jonesboro, Littleton, West Paducah, Springfield, and Newtown are just a few of the locations that have fallen victim to the tragedy of school shootings. Less than 1% of youth homicides take place in a school setting (Daniels, Bradley, & Hays, 2007). However, one life lost is one too many. School shootings affect children, teachers, and other school staff members. The effects are numerous and can be long-term.

Witnessing a school shooting can have emotional, psychological, and physical effects. These effects include nightmares, resisting the return to school, headaches, stomach problems, and sleeping problems (Sweet, nd). The American Psychological Association reports other symptoms such as a change in a child’s school performance, changes in relationships with friends and teachers, anxiety, and loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed (APA, 2014). Beland & Kim (2014) found that schools that experience shootings have a decline in grade nine enrollment, and that math and English test rates dropped. Students who have witnessed violent crimes also show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (Beland & Kim, 2014).

Children are not the only ones affected by school shootings. School personnel can develop psychological problems. After the Dawson College shooting, results from a study that included students, faculty and staff showed that college support staff members were overlooked and their psychological damage was underestimated (Medical News Today, 2009). Teachers who have witnessed a school shooting suffer from effects including post-traumatic stress disorder, divorce, and burnout (Daniels, Bradley, & Hays, 2007). Post-traumatic stress disorder can result in teachers becoming withdrawn and emotionally unstable, and teacher absenteeism can increase (CNN.com, 2013). Teachers do not feel safe at school and they feel they lack support from the educational system (Daniels, Bradley, & Hays, 2007).

There are individuals who think arming teachers and other school staff is the answer. Some people prefer hiring armed guards with a background in law enforcement. There is no easy solution, but parents can steps to help keep their children safe.  In order to prepare a child for a school shooting, parents can talk to them about what to do. Discussing the actions to take in case of a school shooting might give the child a better sense of security. Teaching a child how to stay safe by hiding under a desk, calling 911, and locking the door to the classroom are all things that a child can do to lower the chance of being hurt. Schools can help by having safety drills and asking law enforcement officers to talk to students about ways to remain safe. According to CNN.com (2009), some states now require schools to have lockdown drills. However, it is a fine line between preparing a child for possible violence, and frightening the child. Having a child psychologist available at school might help with any anxiety caused by discussions of a possible school shooting. Children, as well as adults, should not have to deal with such a horrible issue, but being prepared could mean the difference between being a survivor and being a statistic.


After school violence, traumatized teachers need help. (2013). Retrieved from: http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/23/opinion/mooney-teacher-shooting/index.html.

Columbine massacre changed school security. (2009). Retrieved from: http://edition.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/04/20/columbine.school.safety/index.html.

Daniels, J. A., Bradley, M. C., & Hays, M. (2007). The impact of school violence on school personnel: Implications for psychologists. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 38(6), 652-659. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0735-7028.38.6.652

Beland, L. & Kim, D. (2014). The effect of high school shootings o schools and student performance. Retrieved from: http://www.econ.illinois.edu/~dongwookim/LPB_DK_shootings_Dec2013.pdf.

Study on psychological impact of mass shootings. (2009, June 30). Medical News Today. Retrieved from: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/155824.php.

Sweet, K. (nd). Psychological effects of a school shooting. Retrieved from: http://www.ehow.co.uk/info_8132098_psychological-effects-school-shooting.html.

Talking to your children about the recent spate of school shootings. (2014). American Psychological Association. Retrieved from: http://www.apa.org/topics/violence/school-shooting.aspx.

Mar 14

No Child Left Behind has Left the Gifted Children Behind

What we are seeing since the inception of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program is that now the children that are being ‘left behind’ are those who are deemed over-achievers. The NCLB program was implemented by President Bush back in 2002 to “Improve the academic achievement of the disadvantaged” (ED, 2004). Stated in the purpose of this program explicitly conveys that the focus is on under-achieving students. I will quote directly because I feel that the weight of the statements may be lessened if I were to paraphrase. From the U.S. Department of Education (ED) website for the NCLB program Section 001: Statement of Purpose says, “meeting the educational needs of low-achieving children in our Nation’s highest-poverty schools, limited English proficient children, migratory children, children with disabilities, Indian children, neglected or delinquent children, and young children in need of reading assistance; closing the achievement gap between high- and low-performing children, especially the achievement gaps between minority and nonminority students, and between disadvantaged children and their more advantaged peers”(ED, 2004). While this program has great implications, a well-intentioned goal, and encompasses the very thing that our school system should strive to achieve, it is less than unfair that our gifted children have been pushed to the sidelines to incorporate such a program. And that is exactly what is happening.

Since the focus has shifted to ensuring that all students receive a similar education, thus emphasizing that the children in the bottom 10% of classrooms are being instructed properly – they are actually the ones who receive the majority of the attention. While this isn’t what the NCLB program intended, it is how it has been interpreted by the states and schools. What this means is that those children who are above average intelligence are left to their own devices because they are smart enough to figure it out on their own or they grasp the concepts easily and therefore do not need lengthy instruction. In my state, the requirement to be deemed gifted and to gain acceptance into the Gifted and Talented program the student must pass an IQ test with a score of 130 or higher, score within the 97 percentile range on standardized tests, and “pass” a series of aptitude tests. What is happening is that these gifted children are left for extended periods of time in class without attention and instruction; they become bored, unchallenged, and neglected.  Sure, there are Gifted and Talented (GT) classes available for those deemed high-achieving, but these classes typically only meet for an hour a day, and many times not even all five days of the school week which leave at least thirty hours of instruction a week where these children are left in waiting.  According to Kristen Stephens and Jan Riggsbee, both of which are gifted education specialists at Duke University, these gifted children are left sitting idle in classrooms awaiting instruction that nurtures their capabilities, challenges their intellect, and engages them in coursework that is relevant to their level of comprehension (Stephens & Riggsbee, 2007). As a result, these children not only become bored, but they lose passion in their coursework, they become frustrated and unmotivated from the lack of commitment and challenges, and they become lost in the shuffle; and their talent many times is left underdeveloped (Stephens & Riggsbee, 2007).

We have all been introduced to Rosenthal’s Pygmalion in the Classroom experiment multiple times as psychology majors, and we have all come to learn what a great example it is of a self-fulfilling prophecy within the education system. But what if we were to put a spin on it. A perhaps unorthodox correlation to applied social psychology in regards to the gifted student can be seen through the self-fulfilling prophecy. A self-fulfilling prophecy refers to a set of expectations about another person that directly influences the way you perceive that person and in turn behave toward that person. Your perception > expectation > and then behavior towards that person in turn influences the way in which that person behaves in response to you. Now that they have responded in a way that is congruent with your expectations, your initial beliefs have now been confirmed and solidified (Schneider, et al, 2012). Back to the gifted student. Say you are a teacher and you have a gifted young lady named Alyssa in your class. Alyssa performs better on class assignments, standardized tests, and because of her abilities finishes her assignments much quicker than her classmates. As her teacher, you can give Alyssa an assignment and ask her if she needs instruction to which she declines and she completes her assignment quickly with no (or minimal) mistakes. You then realize that she does not need detailed instruction and that you can focus your attention on other students in class. You continue to give her assignments without instruction and she continues to turn them in without mistakes. While this type of self-fulfilling prophecy does not sound bad, the lack of instruction that occurs, coupled with the obvious distinction between Alyssa and her classmates, can cause negative side effects.

A teacher’s subjective expectations/assumptions about a student’s demonstrated academic ability can often become an objective reality as other teachers may adopt the same treatment towards the student. By treating the gifted student in this way, the teacher has strictly defined her expectations of both the gifted and non-gifted students by the way she differentiates the amount of teaching time per student, to whom she shares praise or exerts control, and the practice of autonomy within her classroom (Marsh, et al, 1995) – all of these actions performed by the teacher then turns her expectations into reality. This differential treatment between the gifted and non-gifted students, and the labelling of the gifted student (whether explicit or implicit) shows the gifted student that she has traits that distinguish her from her peers. Having a student that is treated differently from her classmates may seem like a privilege, but over time this student will start to form the idea that since she is treated differently, than she must be different. As gifted students mature, and as they become more aware that they are distinguished from their classmates for a specific reason, their self-concept can decline and become more negative in nature (Marsh, et al, 1995).

What should be happening is that children should be tested on their abilities and placed according to learning styles, academic motivation and capabilities, and intelligence levels within their school. Classrooms should be set up in a way that focuses on the needs of the students, not what is easiest for the school itself. In each classroom in a typical middle school, you may have 1-4 children who have tested in the 97 percentile range or higher and thus have been deemed over-achieving. That roughly equates to 12-36 children per grade that fit into this category. That is enough children to make up an entire classroom. If we provide children with learning challenges a class structure that is adopted to meet their individual needs (Special Education classes) then why can we not provide the same individualized learning environment for high achieving students that are not having their educational needs met? A classroom designed specifically for gifted students taught by properly trained teachers that use appropriate curriculum to meet the needs of the gifted children would be an easy step to take that would pay off immensely in the future. One could argue that money is needed to fund these programs and in response I would say that these children are already being taught in these schools. By gathering them together and putting them in one classroom, which would free up a teacher to teach them, and thus, would require a very minimal (if any) amount of extra funding. For example, the public school that my daughter attended before we pulled her out spends $6,966 per student with a school population of 839 for both 5th and 6th grade; with only 3% of that money allotted for the gifted and talented program (“District Spending,” 2012). And this is an award winning school, deemed amongst the best in the state that has a much larger budget than most schools in the state, but they told us that our daughter was “beyond their curriculum” and “would be better off skipping a few grades or attending a virtual academy that could offer her a challenging environment.” This is of course what we did, but we should not have to. Public schools should incorporate ways in which they can cater to the needs of the advanced while still meeting the needs of the deficient.

Regardless of the approach that is taken to combat this problem, at the very least there should be more research done on the effects of schooling on the gifted child. There is countless journal articles about research conducted on ways in which we can raise the bar for average or under achieving students, but just like in public schools today, gifted children have once again fallen through the cracks. With our own government leaders emphasizing an environment that values research and innovation you would think that more federal money would be allotted to gifted programs rather than to programs that address student deficiencies. In a country that is currently in a transition, facing troubling economic times, and a technology boom – now is the time that we need to give our brightest young minds every tool they need to excel to their fullest potential, because after all, we could all benefit as a result.


District Spending Cabot Middle School North. (2012, November 29). Retrieved from Education.com website: http://www.education.com/schoolfinder/us/arkansas/cabot/cabot-middle-school-north/

Marsh, H. W. M. W., Chessor, D., Craven, R., & Roche, L. (1995). The Effects of Gifted and Talented Programs on Academic Self-Concept: The Big Fish Strikes Again. American Educational Research Journal, 32(2), 285-319. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/1163433

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (Eds.). (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Stephens, K., & Riggsbee, J. (2007, February 1). The Children Neglected by No Child Left Behind. Retrieved from Duke Today website: http://today.duke.edu/2007/02/gifted_oped.html

U.S. Department of Education (ED). (2004, September 15). No Child Left Behind. Retrieved from U.S. Department of Education website: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/esea02/pg1.html#sec1001

Mar 14

The Search for Flight 370: Turning off the Television

Amid the outpouring speculation and leads, I have come to realize that we should all do our best to disregard the flood of information regarding Flight 370. Don’t get me wrong; I am a highly curious individual that likes to find a solution for every mystery. However, in the case of a prolonged media campaign full of speculation and unreliable information, it is better to disregard the constant updates. Many of you  have already adopted such a method to cure the blues that inevitably follow similar events that a picked up by all forms of media. The larger media presence does a thorough job at bringing in analysts and experts. It seems as though a seed of a story can produce countless roots, expanding on the base of information. Constant coverage heightens the stress and anxiety levels felt by those who come in contact. Finally, some individuals have such a negative reaction that they begin exhibiting imitative or otherwise destructive behaviors as a response to such stress.

Let’s talk about the agenda of mass media. Our text defines a media agenda as the issues that are given substantial attention by a news agency (Schneider et al., 2012). Further, widespread coverage has the ability to set the public agenda, which in turn heavily calls upon governmental policies. It is also essential to remember that differing news agencies are in constant competition with one another for greater ratings, with hefty paychecks going to lead anchors with the top interviews.

Consumed by the details of recent current events, including the speculation surrounding Malaysian Flight 370, many will experience high levels of stress. A study conducted by U.C. Irvine in 2013 identified that an individual who spent six or more hours following the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings suffered greater amounts of acute stress than those who were actually present (but not physically harmed) at the marathon that day (Holman et al., 2103).  Anger is another emotion that can be inspired by viewing or listening to mass media reporting of tragic events. In a study meant to explore the emotional timeline of 9/11, the following revelation was made:

“In contrast to anxiety, anger never returned to its baseline level. Instead, anger accumulated over the course of the day and reached a level that was almost 10 times as high as at the start of September 11.” (Back et al., 2010)

When emotions are fresh, an alarming event has occurred, and no solution is in sight, many individuals exhibit negative behaviors as a response. Imitative behaviors come in response to news of a tragic events, especially acts of terrorism. A study conducted in Israel in 2004 concluded that within a 3-day timeframe there would be a dramatic spike in fatal car accidents. It suggested that these events may be terror induced suicides or simply a delayed reaction to the environmental trauma (Stecklov et al., 2004).

It is worth considering how much mass media coverage we are consuming daily. While updates concerning a missing plane or civil war might seem pertinent, consuming every detail may be hindering our health and feelings of contentment. News agencies are actively competing for ratings and work diligently to provide every angle in hopes of gaining more traffic to their station, website, or printed paper. Finally, the emotional stress of following tragic news has the ability to influence our behavior for the worse. I suggest that regardless of whatever new details are being reported today, we should switch off and engage in a more uplifting activity closer to home.


Back, M. D., Eglof, B., & Küfner, C.P.A., (2010). The Emotional Timeline of September 11, 2001. Psychological Science, 21(10), 1417-1419.

doi: 10.1177/0956797610382124

Holman, A. E., Garfin, D. R., & Silver, R. C. (2013). Media’s role in broadcasting acute stress following the Boston Marathon bombings. PNAS.

doi: 10.1073/pnas.1316265110

Schneider, F.W., Gruman, J.A., & Coutts, L.M., (2012) . Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems. London: Sage Publications.

Stecklov, G., Goldstein, J.R., & Fienberg, S.E. (2004). Terror Attacks Influence Driving Behavior in Israel. PNAS, 101(40), 14551-14556.

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