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Peak Education: Positive Messaging Impacts Student GPA


Enrollment:
250
Type:
Nonprofit
Location:
Colorado Springs, CO
Customer Since:
2020

Peak Education: Positive Messaging Impacts Student GPA

In a pilot text-messaging project during spring 2021, Peak Education—a nonprofit connecting underserved students with post-secondary education resources—found that engaging students with positive messaging resulted in improved GPAs. Unlike other research done on texting which often focuses on opt outs, response time, or transactional completion, this project was focused on the Voice of the Student®, an analysis of how and where students need support and guidance throughout their academic journey.

About Peak Education

Peak Education partners with school districts in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and beyond to increase underserved student access to college counseling and post-secondary options. Ninety percent of Peak Education scholars are students of color and will be the first in their family to attend college. Peak Education provides resources to encourage more students to apply to well matched post-secondary schools; teaches students how to navigate admissions and financial aid application processes; and helps them successfully transition to and through college.

The Challenge

Peak Education first used Signal Vine in 2020 to support students with reminders and updates through the confusion of COVID. “There were certainly good results from the transactional messaging we sent—directing students what to do, where to go, reminders, etc. However, it seemed like we were missing a major component of how students use texts to pump each other up to be a line of support to one another,” says Lauren Taylor, Director of Programs and Systems.

Taylor is a first-generation college student and scholar-practitioner herself. With a focus on social-emotional skills, career readiness, and tools for success in higher education, she was particularly interested in tapping into the power of positive messaging with Peak Education students. Her vision was to send messages of encouragement and then assess the impact on students’ academic performance as measured by their GPAs.

Implementation

In Spring 2021, Taylor identified 33 students who were high risk (who had negatively impacted GPAs during the pandemic) to receive positive messaging, to see if it made a difference in their performance and engagement with resources for support. She sent the same messages to students in a control group of 49 high-performing students.

“We were trying to see whether moving away from action-oriented messages that are transactional, and engaging students by offering support and encouragement, would make a difference. We knew the answer to this question could fundamentally change our communication strategy.”

Each week Taylor texted a message, a quote, and a video and prompted students to respond with their thoughts. The students responded—a lot. “I was so surprised by how engaged students were,” she says. “They shared feedback that expressed that the outreach was meaningful to them. I knew some students would be into it, but I had no idea how many students would engage!”

The Result

The results were statistically significant. In both the control and high risk groups, students who had received positive messages and responded to them seven or more times had notable improvements in GPA.

Taylor says that this project “was just a gut instinct” that she had along the way because if these types of positive messages felt good to her, why wouldn’t they feel good to a student? “The trickiest part was figuring out what to send,” she admits. “I am a white, 30-something who is texting teens who are primarily not white. My team and I had a lot of conversations to explore what would resonate. For instance, is a Brené Brown quote going to go over well?” Taylor found that some of the “best practices” that make sense for adults don’t resonate with teens. However, with some modification, messages could encourage student interest and engagement.

Moving Forward

Going forward, Taylor and her team plan to continue the positive-messaging strategy. “The bottom line is that the more we encourage students, and the more they respond, the more likely we are to impact their academic performance positively. We are so proud of our students, and they need to hear that—especially in these crazy times!”

An Invitation

Beginning in January 2022, Taylor will be running a new campaign that builds on this pilot messaging program, and she is looking for others to join her. Signal Vine partner organizations interested in participating in positive messaging campaigns that will measure shifts in GPA can reach out to their Account Manager.

Lauren Taylor, Director of Programs and Systems
Peak Education

The students responded—a lot. I was so surprised by how engaged students were. They shared feedback that expressed that the outreach was meaningful to them. I knew some students would be into it, but I had no idea how many students would engage!

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