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Help Students Avoid Stereotype Threat


Social-Emotional Learning All Ages Strategy



Help Students Avoid Stereotype Threat

All students, particularly those who lack self-confidence, have a fixed mindset, or belong to a group that has historically been under-represented in the subject

How To Apply It!

  1. Stereotypes can be self-fulfilling so parents and educators need to be careful to avoid language or statistics of performance related to gender, race or socioeconomic status.
  2. Avoid saying things to students like, "Girls tend not to do well in this class," or, "Students like you might find this challenging."
  3. Before an important test, discuss success for all students and avoid discussions of failure or what happens if you do not do well.
  4. Offer reassurance that all students can perform well. Avoid references to any given group of students not performing as well as another group.
  5. Create a safe environment where all students believe they can make mistakes, learn and succeed without feeling labeled or judged.
  6. Provide students with images of successful people in the subject who "look like them" in terms of race, gender or came from a similar background. Seeing similar people succeed will reinforce positive beliefs.
  7. Address stereotype threat head-on. It might be an uncomfortable conversation, but making students aware of the stereotype threat is shown to help students at-risk overcome it.

Why It Works (the Science Of Learning)!

Research on stereotypes shows that negative stereotypes, even subtle references, raise doubts and anxieties, resulting in students under-performing relative to their capabilities. Conscious avoidance of group performance are always preferable. Even telling a student that "although others in your group tend not do well but you can" is likely to have a detrimental impact.