Interventions shaping education and skills

Socio-economic inequalities have been documented in relation to Higher Education outcomes (drop-out, degree class, earnings) in the UK and many other countries. Started in 2014-15 with a grant from the ESRC “Socio-economic inequalities in Higher Education,” Misoc Co-I Delavande and Director Del Bono launched the BOOST2018 study, a longitudinal study of a cohort of undergraduate students in a UK HE institutions. One important aim of the study was improve Higher Education outcomes for students from at-risk groups. For this purpose, they implemented 3 randomized light-touch interventions that could be rolled-out at scale.

  • Information about the malleability of the brain: first-year university students were exposed to a 10-minute video showing that people’s brains adapt and grow in response to learning opportunities, and delivering practical suggestions about the most effective ways of studying (e.g., testing yourself, spacing out study). After watching the video, students were also asked to write a letter to a friend to explain that ability is not fixed and what implications this has for how he or she should study. This intervention has been evaluated through a randomized controlled trial in two different UK universities, and has been found to improve study habits and to increase first-year marks.
  • Attendance goal-setting: Second-year university students were provided with information about the benefits of regular attendance on learning and grades and a short video showing why setting a goal helps to achieve one’s objectives. Students were then asked to set a weekly goal for attendance to lectures and classes for term, and received weekly feedbacks on whether they reached their goals. The intervention was successful at improving attendance to lectures and classes.
  • Information about employability skills: Third-year students were provided information about the type of skills typical employers are looking for, which skills employers report having difficulty finding when hiring graduates, and tips for how to acquire and signal these skills. The intervention increased non-academic investments (e.g., participation in Big Employability Award, attendance to employability workshops) and modified job search practices.