'Grit' classes and supportive texts boost student attendance, research reveals

15th September 2016 at 00:01
The study involved 10,000 learners in 19 colleges – one of the biggest ever trials in an FE setting

Offering classes in "grit" and sending supportive text messages can improve FE learners' attendance, new research has revealed.

The research,  described as “one of the biggest and most challenging set of trials ever undertaken in the FE setting anywhere in the world”, involved some 10,000 learners across 19 colleges, and was conducted by the Behavioural Insights Team – the world’s first government institution of applied of behavioural sciences.

The research looked at how three interventions could help adults become more literate and numerate. The first sought to improve learners "grit" – including non-cognitive skills such as perseverance. Students learnt how to set goals and were told that frustrations were to be expected along the way. The intervention improved preliminary attendance rates for all learners – including those studying for a GCSE or functional skills – by more than 4 percentage points.

A second intervention, called "values affirmation", was also used to encourage students to break free from preconcieved stereotypes of underperformance. The intervention was particularly effective for learners taking functional skills – with attendance rates increasing by almost 8 percentage points. 

The third intervention looked at providing students with two "study supporters". These were individuals who would be sent texts aimed at prompting them to provide support at moments of importance during the education of the learner. The intervention increased attendance by 6 percentage points.

Zhi Soon, productivity director at the Behavioural Insights Team, said: "The results are really encouraging and show how behavioural insights can have a real impact in education."

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