Values Affirmation Promotes Student Success

Values writing is a simple exercise designed to affirm a studentʼs values, increasing their confidence and sense of self-worth. This strategy can have positive effects on student achievement, especially for underrepresented students and for women, especially in STEM disciplines. (Some research indicates that the impact is decreased if you tell the students why you are asking them to engage in the activity.)

It’s simple to do: Present your students with a list of values and ask them to write about a few values that are important to them personally. You might ask them leading questions, such as:

  • Which of these values do you most naturally use to guide your choices?
  • What do you appreciate about yourself?
  • Which of these values matter most to you? Why?

The whole activity should take no more than 15 minutes. If you’d like, you can also ask your students to reflect on how their values may have influenced their career choices. Their responses can inform how you structure class discussions and assignments.

Here’s a template you can download and modify.


  • Assessing for Inclusion, Center for the Enhancement of Teaching & Learning, University of Cinncinnati: retrieved 9/16/2020 at:
  • Estrada, M et al. (2018). The Influence of Affirming Kindness and Community on Broadening Participation in STEM Career Pathways. Soc Issues Policy Rev. 12:258-297.
  • Harackiewicz, JM et al. (2016). Closing achievement gaps with a utility-value intervention: Disentangling race and social class. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 111:745–765.
  • Kizileee, RF et al. (2017). Closing global achievement gaps in MOOCs: Brief interventions target social identity threat. Science 355:251-252.
  • Miyake, A et al. (2010). Reducing the Gender Achievement Gap in College Science: A Classroom Study of Values Affirmation. Science 330:1234-1237.