Stereotypes are perceptions that change with time and perspective. These assumptions can be formed based on characteristics known as identity contingencies. Examples of these are race, gender, age, and physical/mental ability. According to The Teaching Center (2016), stereotype threat is “a phenomenon in which a person’s concern about confirming a negative stereotype can lead that person to under perform on a challenging assessment or test” (paragraph 1). Anybody can be a victim of a stereotype threat, but it is typically experienced by individuals who belong to an underrepresented group.
An average classroom population will contain a diverse cast of students who all carry different experiences and identities with them. Therefore, multiple identity contingencies are present. This diverse cast also comes with mixed perceptions on various identity contingencies. These perceptions can lead to stereotype threat. When stereotype threat is present, student performance decreases. An example of this was described in Whistling Vivaldi by Claude M. Steele. In the book, the author describes how a white student did not feel he was working to his full potential because he was a minority in the classroom environment. The class was focused on African American political science, and the students felt that he had to prove to them that he was not a stereotype of a young white male to his fellow peers, who were African American. This affected his performance and time spent in the class. This is just one of several types of stereotypes that can occur. Presence of stereotype threat hinders the ability for every student to work at their peak performance level.
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