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A stereotype threat can be defined as when a person, once aware of the stereotype, can be subject to conforming to stereotypes about their social group. For example, many believe that girls do not perform as well as boys when it comes to math. Now, a girl who is about to take a math test becomes aware of this stereotype threat, now performs more poorly than she would have if she was not thinking about this stereotype. Stereotype threats can take many forms. They can be academic, athletic, age, classroom performance and more.
An example of a classroom performance stereotype threat Steele shares with us is when Ted MacDougal was in an African American political science class. Ted truly felt his “whiteness” in this class since a majoirty of students were black. He also felt as if he were walking on eggshells with things we thought and said because he did want to fall victim to the stereotypes that exist about him because he is a white male. He did not want to seem insensitive so this put a large amount of pressure on him to say and do the right things to not offend. (Steele, 2010).
An example of an academic stereotype threat is when Steele discusses how many black college freshman and sophmores performed more poorly on standardized tests when their race was made more apparent to them.
These stereotype threats could have a large impact on the classroom. There are ways to reduce these stereotype threats in order to make your classroom an accepting community. One major way to reduce the stereotype threat is to foster a growth mindset. This means to teach students that we are not born with our intelligence or how smart we will be. Teaching students this mindset will help them not fall victim to the stereotype threat. All students will believe that they can achieve if they try/want to learn, rather than blaming their identity for why they cannot learn.
Another way to help reduce the stereotype threat is by making your classroom a place where it is okay to fail or make mistakes. In my school, we are big on the phrase F.A.I.L is the first attempt at learning and teaching our students this motto allows them to feel safe when making mistakes. Building a community in which it is okay to make mistakes and a community where it is okay to take risks can help to combat the stereotype threat.