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A conceptual replication study of a self-affirmation intervention to improve the academic achievement of low-income pupils in England

See, B.H. and Morris, R. and Gorard, S. and Siddiqui, N. and Easterbrook, M. and Nieuwenhuis, M. and Fox, K. and Harris, P. and Banerjee, R. (2022) 'A conceptual replication study of a self-affirmation intervention to improve the academic achievement of low-income pupils in England.', Educational Research and Evaluation .


Self-affirmation theory suggests that some potentially stigmatised groups, such as those from ethnic minority or poor families, face stereotype threats which undermine their academic performance. Engaging in value affirmation writing activities at times when such threats are most salient can give individuals a positive sense of value, negating harmful feelings, and fostering academic learning. An important test of the useful productiveness of any theory is the replicability of evidence concerning its predictions. This paper describes a randomised control trial of a self-affirmation intervention, replicating earlier studies, mostly conducted in the US with ethnic minority students. The present study, involving 5,116 Year 10 and Year 11 pupils (age 14 to 16), assesses whether the promising results can be replicated in England with pupils from low socio-economic backgrounds. The intervention involved pupils writing about self-affirming values, delivered at three crucial time points before a key school assessment. The results showed that pupils from lower socio-economic background in the intervention group made slightly more progress between their KS2 scores (end of primary education exam) and KS4 (national exam at the end of secondary education) results than similar pupils who did not receive the intervention. There wasa small positive effect (+0.05) for the Year 11, and a sustained effect for the Year 10 pupils a year after the intervention (+0.04). Pupils who completed more exercises also performed better. Consistent with theory and previous studies, the replicated intervention had no effect for the majority of pupils who are not labelled as disadvantaged, and so helps reduce the poverty attainment gap. The findings are worth consideration because the intervention has no cost.

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Publisher statement:This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way. This article was published by Taylor & Francis in Educational Research and Evaluation on 31st January 2022, available online:
Date accepted:16 August 2021
Date deposited:25 August 2021
Date of first online publication:31 January 2022
Date first made open access:15 February 2022

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