International Conference Centre ICC Darling Harbour, Sydney. Tall buildings along the water and a huge ferris wheel in the distance

Using behavioural science to improve education

First day of the Behavioural Exchange conference! My favourite session was on using behavioural science to improve educational outcomes of disadvantaged youth.

A longitudinal study was carried out in Chicago USA using a number of ongoing trials in an specially-built preschool. Of the various approaches investigated, bringing in parents and giving them educational skills works best. This starts with a financial incentive, a bonus for them or savings for their children’s university education, and then involves ongoing training about how to read to their kids, how to help develop their cognitive skills, and how to have engaging conversations with their kids about what they’re learning. This might seem basic or intuitive but it is not.

Education is a resource that middle and upper class families pass onto their kids. If you’re a first generation university graduate (like me), you’d understand how even though your parents or guardians want you to succeed, they may not have the time or skills or knowledge to help you navigate the school system.

For racial minority kids, the behavioural interventions that have the greatest impact must involve communities and include group-based play. Latin children have higher returns because they have larger extended family networks (grandparents, aunts, uncles) who can more readily step into the parental classes if a parent is unable to make it (in comparison to Black and White kids).

More insights on my Twitter.

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