Remedial Classes: The Psychological Effect

During the last recent years, a growing number of students going to Many high school student college have needed to take remedial classes.

Remedial classes, also known as developmental or basic skills courses, are intended to deal with academic deficiencies and prepare students for the rigorous college-level coursework they’ll be engaged in during their program of study. While remedial classes are intended for students’ academic development, placement in remedial classes often affect students psychologically as well.

Lowered Student Self-Esteem
A college admission is exciting news for students and families to receive. Many of the high school students,  those that came from low-income level families, have to exert more effort to maintain the minimum grade-point averages and other pre-admission requirements of colleges and universities. After being given admission to college, hearing that they need to take remedial classes before beginning college coursework can lower students’ self-esteem. Along with placement in developmental courses comes a suggestion or underlying message of failure. After progressing through numerous remedial classes, many students lack the esteem and motivation necessary to continue onto their degree coursework.

Stereotype Vulnerability
Instead of giving challenges to lower-performing students, many college campuses take the approach of “dumbing down” instruction in remedial classes. Starting in the primary grades, students are often stereotyped as slow or stupid if they are placed in remedial or lower-performing instructional groups. According to Claude Steele, professor of psychology at Stanford University, studies have found that students placed in stigmatized groups, such as students who need to take remedial classes, achieve lower scores on tests and other progress-monitoring evaluations as a result of being included in a group that is expected to achieve less.

Increased Frustration, Decreased Motivation
Most remedial classes provided by colleges are not applicable toward degree credit requirements. Furthermore, a large number of universities restrict enrollment in certain classes until remediation has been successfully completed. For some students, being included in remedial classes increases the time it will take to meet the credit requirements of their degree program. Remedial placement can also limit community college students from transferring to four-year universities. With limited class schedules and lengthened time before graduation, student motivation can be negatively effected by remedial classes as frustration levels rise. For some students, placement in remedial programs eventually causes withdrawal from college.

A Different Approach to Remediation
The realization that so many high school students are entering college under-prepared academically has caused state legislators and educators to inspect the disconnect between K-12 and post-secondary expectations. Instead of waiting to find out that students aren’t ready for college-level courses until they fail college placement tests, some states have begun to give college placements to students during their sophomore or junior years. High school students who score poorly on college placement tests during these years are then given opportunities to take college-prep courses during their senior year. Providing students with extra support prior to entering college can lessen the chances that they’ll need to take remedial classes.

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