According to the article Reducing Stereotype Threat, stereotype threat occurs when a person underperforms on a given task when they fear that they will fulfill a negative stereotype (The Teaching Center, 2016). Stereotype threat can have negative implications in the classroom when there is a discrepancy between potential and performance in students negatively affected by identity contingencies. According to Steele in Whistling Vivaldi, this phenomenon affects how students interact with their instructors and peers and impacts the life choices they make after graduation (2010). It plays a role in students’ developing identities and as instructors, it is important that we make conscious moves to reduce stereotype threat in our classrooms.
The strategies to reduce stereotype threat benefit all students in the classroom, not just students vulnerable to the phenomenon. According to the authors of Empirically Validated Strategies to Reduce Stereotype Threat, teachers should promote a growth mindset in the classroom (Materman). A growth mindset is the notion that students’ intelligence is malleable and everyone can increase it. Intelligence is not a fixed feature. This can be fostered by encouraging all students to improve and reach beyond their perceived limits.
Another strategy described in the 2016 article by The Teaching Center is to foster belonging in the classroom. Students should understand that everyone struggles academically from time to time and by working to overcome these struggles, they become a stronger student. Students should feel like failure and mistakes are an opportunity to learn and grow.
The Materman article also suggests valuing diversity by creating homogeneous groups, valuing students’ individuality, and exposing students to role models from diverse backgrounds.
Lastly, the article suggests ensuring that assessment items are fair and free of bias. Students should understand that the assessment is used to measure their progress toward a given standard, not to measure their value or innate ability. Removing assessment questions that highlight stereotypes or work against students from a particular background reduces stereotype threat in the classroom. It creates a learning environment that is fair for all students. These strategies can help reduce the negative effects of stereotype threat in the classroom.
The infographic below provides a graphic for how to reduce stereotype threat in the classroom:
Materman, H. Empirically Validated Strategies to Reduce Stereotype Threat.
Steele, C. M. (2010). Whistling Vivaldi: How stereotypes affect us and what we can do. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
The Teaching Center (2016). Reducing stereotype threat. Retrieved from https://teachingcenter.wustl.edu/resources/inclusive-teaching-learning/reducing-stereotype-threat/