Project Information

Kurt Lewin Instituut
Heidelberglaan 1
Room Number H1.42
The Netherlands
T: +31 (0)30 - 253 3027

Project Information

Project Title
"Closing the Minority Achievement Gap: A SMART Model of the Benefits of Belongingness Interventions among Students from Ethnic Minorities"

VU University Amsterdam - Clinical Psychology

PhD Student
Mandy Tjew A Sin

Dr. S.L. Koole (VU University Amsterdam)

1 October 2012 - 1 October 2017

NWO - Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research


Students from non-Asian ethnic minorities often feel left out at western academic institutions. These concerns about belongingness may impair their intellectual functioning. Indeed, non-Asian minority students in Europe and the USA have markedly lower academic performance compared to native students. This minority achievement gap persists even after accounting for background variables such as prior education, family and socio-economic background, and gender.

Three recent Science articles found that bolstering feelings of belongingness can improve academic achievement among minority students. For instance, a 1-hour exercise emphasizing that loneliness is common but fleeting led to a 79% decrease in the minority achievement gap over two years. Despite these promising results, it remains unclear how large and enduring improvements can arise from brief belongingness interventions. As long as belongingness interventions are incompletely understood, it is unlikely that they will be properly implemented. It is therefore vital to improve our scientific understanding of belongingness interventions.

The proposed research investigates how and why affirming feelings of belonging may improve academic achievement among ethnic minority students. The resulting insights will be used to design powerful new belongingness interventions. These interventions will be evaluated in terms of their effectiveness in closing the minority achievement gap.

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