Monday, January 03, 2011

Can Targeted, Non-Cognitive Skills Programs Improve Achievement?

This is the title of a new research paper by Pedro Martins from the University of London. Martins’ findings show that a targeted program related to non-cognitive ability – in this case study skills, motivation, and self-esteem – can improve student achievement at state schools in Portugal. In work that I have done with Liam and Colm, there is a clear demonstration of academic advantage for Irish university students who are more future-orientated and more conscientious. Given all of the above, there is a case for considering whether the Portugese program can translate (with obvious modifications) to Irish universities, and Irish schools. Of course, it must be borne in mind that there is an existing Access program in Irish universities (and Irish schools) which provides academic and social supports. The Access program was evaluated in the setting of an Irish university by Denny, Doyle, O’Reilly and O’Sullivan (2010); the results suggesting that Access programs can be an effective means of improving academic outcomes for socio-economically disadvantaged students attending Irish universities. One question that I plan to investigate further is whether the design of Access programs in Ireland exlicitly considers the concept of non-cognitive skill formation. I would be interested to hear from any readers who have any information on this.

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