Stereotype Threat


Stereotype threat is an invisible pressure placed upon a person when they are at risk of confirming a stereotype for which they fall under. As Steele explains, “When people… are in a situation for which a negative stereotype about their group is relevant, they can feel stereotype threat; they can feel under pressure not to confirm the stereotype for fear that they will be judged or treated in terms of it” (2010, p.89). As result, the persons performance and abilities pertaining to the matter and negatively impacted.

            In a classroom context, the student’s academic abilities are impacted, as they begin to exert extraneous effort; Vivaldi calls this, “over-efforting” (2010, P.105). His studies suggest that the over-efforting and resulting academic underperformance, is caused by stereotype threat.

He states,

“Frustration on these tasks makes the stereotype personally relevant as a plausible explanation for why they are having the frustration. It threatens them with the fear of confirming the negative stereotype, which causes distracting emotion and thoughts. Performance gets worse. The risk of confirming the stereotype gets worse. A vicious cycle ensues” (2010, p.108).

 It is the responsibility of the teacher to reduce stereotype threats in the classroom environment. Vivaldi describes an intervention study in his text, the study found that, “stereotyped students consistently got better subsequent grades than non-stereotyped students with the same prior test scores or grades” (2010, p.187). Teachers must make a conscious effort to use strategies which eliminate or lessen the effects of stereotype threat. Essentially, they are responsible for creating a safe space for students to feel valued as individuals. Thus, the stereotype threat is combated. Part of this responsibility includes avoiding using assessments which are culturally biased.  A culturally biased test is considered, “a test that yields clear and systematic differences among the results of the test-takers. Typically, test biases are based on group membership of the test-takers, such as gender, race and ethnicity” (Hurst, 30 seconds). However, classroom teachers who use strategies to work against stereotype threat, will most likely eliminate the possibility of biased assessment as result of their efforts.


Hurst, Melissa. (2003-2010). Testing Bias, Cultural Bias, & Language Differences in Assessment. Retrieved at

Steele, Claude. M. (2010). Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect us and What we can do. W.W. Norton, New York.

2 thoughts on “Stereotype Threat”

  1. Hey Alexis,
    I really enjoyed reading your response! Your last note on biased exams is something that is prevalent but easy to avoid. As a math teacher, stereotype threat should be in my mind to ensure that I’m assessing math skills and not penalizing students for matters out of their control. I agree with your notion that educators need to make a conscious effort to combat stereotype threat. I think a lot of the ideas you bring up are in line with the other themes in this course. In order to combat these societal problems, we have to acknowledge and address them.
    Thank you for your response!
    -Robert Mullen


  2. Hi Alexis,
    I enjoyed reading your post from last week. Your infographic was visually pleasing and well organized, nice job!
    In your post you highlight the importance of removing testing bias. I like how you say that this will come through combating stereotypes in the classroom in general. I think that combatting stereotype should be an overarching idea n every classroom and then bias in testing is something that will be removed as a result. Acknowledging this bias and the stereotypes in our classrooms is the first step in combatting them.
    Thanks for sharing, great post!

    – Aimee


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