A long held belief amongst educationists is that average/low performing students can benefit from the company of children who are considered brighter than the rest. In order to keep the classroom environment competitive, teachers usually pair up average pupils with the exceptional one’s thinking that genius is contagious and eventually the others would also catch the virus. This mindset has been dealt a death blow by a new study conducted in England. The study tracked the exam performance of more than two million pupils and concluded that the old point of view is just the tip of an iceberg where the invisible part tells an entirely different story. Keeping this in mind, how does peer pressure affect behavior of average students? The study indicated that spending time with high-achieving peers could damage the confidence of those pupils who are lower down the order as far as academic excellence is concerned.
Study conducted in London
The study published by two academics, named Richard Murphy and Felix Weinhardt, at the London School of Economics Centre for Economic Performance, showed that students who passed through primary school with flying colors also performed better in secondary school. Their success was not due to them being smart but because these students were riding high on the waves of confidence that inspired them to succeed academically.
The two researchers requested 15,000 pupils to rate themselves in English, maths and science. The results of the study were matched with the exam results of students at the second stage of the research when students passed primary school at age 11, and continued into the third stage when students reach secondary education by the age of 14. The researchers analyzed different factors, including, parental involvement, and concluded that confidence, perseverance and resilience have a larger impact on achievement of a pupil rather than positive peer pressure alone.
Both the economists said that boys were four times more likely to get affected by being on top of their class than girls. This just throws more light on the competitive nature of boys who would suffer psychologically if they are from among the low ranking group of the class.
Furthermore, high-achievers improve their performance when they are reminded how they rank nationally and not just on the school level. On the other hand, low-achievers can improve their ranking if teachers help them reach their goals by taking one baby step at a time.
Further uses of the paper
Since the research puts more stress on educational outcomes, the researchers further claimed that the knowledge can be used in other kinds of human interaction; for instance, finding a life partner and clicking with the opposite sex. But primary and secondary level students can be less concerned with these things for the time being and can practice their charm at a later stage in life.
Finding a way in-between
The study discussed above is not the only one of its kind that claims that confidence and the will to do something are more important in inspiring pupils rather than peer pressure alone. Pairing up low performing students with high achievers can have a very negative impact on the former group because every individual learns new things according to his/her understanding. Nevertheless, more study is required on this topic in order to empower every individual student to excel according to his/her own potential. Imagine your teenage offspring getting high on confidence without using drugs that would only give them a false sense of being on top of the world, when in reality they are just staring down a rabbit hole that won’t lead to wonderland.