The 160-Character Solution: How Text Messaging and Other Behavioral Strategies Can Improve Education

The 160-Character Solution: How Text Messaging and Other Behavioral Strategies Can Improve Education

by Benjamin L. Castleman


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For decades schools have invested substantial resources in boosting educational outcomes for disadvantaged students, but those investments have not always generated positive outcomes. Although many communities have expanded school choice, for example, families often choose to keep their children in failing schools. And while the federal government has increased the size of Pell Grants, many college-bound students who would be eligible for aid never apply. Then there is the troubling trend of "summer melt," in which up to 40 percent of high school graduates who have been accepted to college, mostly from underserved communities, fail to show up for the fall semester.

In The 160-Character Solution, Benjamin L. Castleman shows how insights from behavioral economics—the study of how social, cognitive, and emotional factors affect our decisions—can be leveraged to help students complete assignments, perform to their full potential on tests, and choose schools and colleges where they are well positioned for success. By employing behavioral strategies or "nudges," Castleman shows, administrators, teachers, and parents can dramatically improve educational outcomes from preschool to college.

Castleman applies the science of decision making to explain why inequalities persist at various stages in education and to identify innovative solutions to improve students’ academic achievement and attainment. By focusing on behavioral changes, Castleman demonstrates that small changes in how we ask questions, design applications, and tailor reminders can have remarkable impacts on student and school success.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781421418742
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date: 11/15/2015
Pages: 160
Product dimensions: 9.10(w) x 5.90(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Benjamin L. Castleman is an assistant professor of education and public policy at the University of Virginia.

Table of Contents

1. The Cost of Complexity
2. Starting with the Status Quo
3. Encouraging Active Decisions
4. Following Our Friends—or Not
Works Cited

What People are Saying About This

Susanna Loeb

This important book comes at just the right time. We are realizing that making good educational decisions requires far more than just knowledge about the options and a desire for positive outcomes. Parents and students need to keep their attention set on education when numerous other issues vie for attention each day. Small choices about skipping reading to a preschooler at night or loosing track of a high schooler’s homework can have big consequences. This book does a terrific job of summarizing the research showing promising approaches to overcoming these barriers, and points us towards opportunities to improve educational opportunities for students.

Josh Wright

Castleman does a wonderful job explaining how behavioral science can be used in a concrete way to improve educational outcomes. No one has brought these ideas together in one book focused on education before.

Bruce I. Sacerdote

Castleman has produced a wonderfully readable guide to the best research on behavioral insights and how these can be applied to help students and parents make informed educational decisions. Academics, policy makers and parents will benefit from this nice synthesis of related work from a multitude of fields and educational settings.

Andrew P. Kelly

Castleman’s book serves as a reminder that the freedom to choose schools is only part of expanding educational opportunity. Ensuring that families are prepared to make informed choices is key, but existing policies often frustrate or overwhelm students. Using insights from cutting edge research, this book provides a useful blueprint for empowering students and improving the return on our educational investments.

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