Productive high schoolers still achieving later in life
(District of Columbia) Being a responsible student in high school and having good reading and writing skills usually translates into good grades, but new research shows those qualities can also predict educational and professional success decades later.
Regardless of IQ, socioeconomic status or other personality factors, a new study published by the American Psychological Association found that being a responsible, motivated and achievement-striving student led to positive outcomes up to 50 years after high school.
Authors of the report note that while personality traits such as persistence, grit and impulse control all play important parts in children becoming better students, focusing on improving specific classroom behaviors can help level the playing field.
While not every student is intrinsically persistent or demonstrates qualities like grit, researchers said that behaviors that are based on these traits, such as working hard on challenging assignments, can be rewarded by teachers and parents–which in turn can foster students’ desire to keep developing such behaviors.
“Educational researchers, political scientists and economists are increasingly interested in the traits and skills that parents, teachers and schools should foster in children to enhance chances of success later in life,” Marion Spengler, lead author of the study and researchers at the University of Tübingen in Germany, said in a statement.
Authors also include Rodica Ioana Damian, of the University of Houston, and Brent Roberts, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
“Student characteristics and behaviors were rewarded in high school and led to higher educational attainment, which in turn was related to greater occupational prestige and income later in life,” Spengler said. “Our research found that specific behaviors in high school have long-lasting effects for one’s later life.”
Using data collected by the American Institutes for Research from 347,000 U.S. high school students in 1960, as well as follow-up data from nearly 82,000 of those students 11 years later and almost 2,000 of them 50 years later, researchers found a handful of positive long-term outcomes aligned to specific student traits and classroom behaviors.
For instance, where students fell on the “interest in school” scale related to their outcomes across 11 and 50 years. To determine their placement on the scale, students participated in a questionnaire with statements including “I have missed assignments or other important things that the teacher has said, because I was not paying attention,” and “Unless I really like a course, I do only enough to get by,” and “My teachers have criticized me for turning in sloppy assignments.”
In other words, not paying attention, turning in messy or incomplete work or falling behind on assignments was related to worse educational attainment, lower professional success and reduced income as a result.
While strong reading and writing skills are perhaps unsurprisingly beneficial in the long-term, researchers also found that being a responsible student was also tied to higher educational attainment and employment outcomes up to 50 years after high school graduation.
To determine where children were on the “responsible student” scale, researchers asked students to rank from one to four how strongly statements including “I keep up to date on my assignments by doing my work every day,” corresponded to their work habits. Other statements included “I make sure that I understand what I am to do before I start an assignments,” and “My grades reflect my ability fairly accurately.”
Researchers said that if those behaviors that make for higher academic achievement are nurtured, even if they don’t come naturally to all students, it is possible that those behaviors could have long-term positive consequences for children.