Stanford researcher Geoffrey Cohen and others have conducted several experiments over the years having students do a simple writing exercise about their values that has resulted in increased academic achievement over the course of a year.
I’ve written in detail about what they’ve done and how I regularly replicate the exercise in my classroom. You can read about that process in these two pieces, one here in my blog (Useful Writing Exercise For Helping Students Develop Self-Esteem) and the other a guest post at The New York Times Learning Network (Guest Post | Helping Students Motivate Themselves).
These same researchers have been tracking these middle school students who have done these exercises and have found that these academic improvements apparently last for years, with them choosing to take more academically rigorous high school classes and being more likely to attend college.
You can read a summary of these new results at Ed Week, How a Simple Writing Exercise in Middle School Led to Higher College Enrollment.
Unfortunately, the link to more information about the study that’s within that article doesn’t work, but you go directly to the research itself here. Happily, it’s not behind a paywall!