Jacobs Foundation Research Fellow

Sébastien Goudeau

University of Poitiers and CNRS

Research Focus

Sébastien Goudeau’s work aims to understand how academic contexts influence children’s achievement, and ultimately, how they can play a role in the amplification (or reduction) of academic inequalities. To apprehend this power of context on inequalities, his research examines how children and teachers explain differences in achievement and how their explanations can affect learning, which ultimately can play a role in creating educational inequalities.

Finally, he is also interested in designing, implementing, and assessing interventions in academic settings (both at the children an teachers’ levels) in order to reduce academic inequalities.

My plans for the fellowship period

During my fellowship, I will investigate the early roots of educational inequalities in preschool. Indeed, while enrolling in early childhood education does improve low-SES children’s academic outcomes relative to informal care, low-SES children enter first grade still lagging behind their higher SES peers in terms of academic skills in many countries.

In my project, I wish to examine why preschool fails to level the level playing field for low-SES students. My main hypothesis is that whole-class discussions- a core aspect of preschool education- do not allow equal participation from children from different SES and that these differences in participation are interpreted by low-SES children as lack of ability, which alter their self-image. I plan to implement: (1) video-recording of whole-class discussions; (2) experiments with children to assess their explanations for differences in participation; (3) randomized controlled trials to evaluate an intervention that creates inclusive preschool classroom climate encouraging equal participation.

Though I started this project in France, the Fellowship will help me to expand my research in developing countries. This will allow me to have a comparative and international view of the early roots of SES achievement gaps while trying to find culturally sensitive ways to address disparities in preschool.

How will my work change children’s and youth’s lives?

My project aims to shed new light on the early roots of SES achievement gaps, and it will do so precisely in the educational setting that was designed as a tool to combat these gaps. Furthering our understanding of the construction of inequalities at the preschool level is critical, as these initial inequalities lay the basis for subsequent differences throughout students’ progression in the educational system.

During my fellowship, as a former teacher, I would like to be involved in programs that participate to the transfer of evidence-based knowledge about learning. My ambition will be to support teachers, schools, and policymakers in sharing good practices, appropriate interventions and policies to reduce early disparities.

I hope that conducting this research in marginalized communities around the world in collaboration with Jacobs partners and fellows can contribute to offer to children more equitable access to education and better opportunities for positive development and learning.