Leveraging Informal Learning Environments to Close Socioeconomic Status–Related Achievement Gaps

Sunday, February 19, 2017: 1:00 PM-2:30 PM
Room 313 (Hynes Convention Center)
The socioeconomic status–related achievement gap is of great concern worldwide. Efforts to close this gap have largely focused on holding schools accountable for bringing all children up to grade level. However, there is reason to believe that focusing solely on formal learning settings is not sufficient to close the achievement gap. Gaps are evident before formal schooling even begins; and once schooling has begun, children spend many hours in informal learning environments (e.g., homes, museums, parks) where differences in inputs are likely to be larger than at school. This session reports on three research programs that use principles from cognitive science research to develop and test interventions that extend beyond school walls to enhance young children’s learning using home, community, and museum resources. Findings show promising results for language, math, and science/engineering learning, highlighting the potential of evidence-based approaches to raise children’s achievement across domains. This success calls for a concerted effort to use lessons that have emerged from basic cognitive science research to continue developing and testing interventions that support children’s learning in informal environments. Such efforts hold promise for closing the input gap that undergirds the achievement gap and for supporting the learning potential of all children.

Susan C. Levine, University of Chicago
Susan C. Levine, University of Chicago