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Stereotype Threat. Presentation by Michael A. Clarke. Disclaimer. This conversation is intensely personal! I can get emotional when I think of some of the experiences that I may recount here If I need to take a moment…..I will!. On Learning.

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stereotype threat

Stereotype Threat



Michael A. Clarke

  • This conversation is intensely personal!
  • I can get emotional when I think of some of the experiences that I may recount here
  • If I need to take a moment…..I will!
on learning
On Learning

The more I learn, the more I learn how little I know. – Socrates

The more you know, the less you understand. -- Lao-Tse

The more you learn, the more you know. The more you know, the more you forget. The more you forget, the less you know. So why bother to learn? -- George Bernard Shaw

story impression what happens next
Story Impression: What happens next?

An elegantly dressed white couple is walking down Park Avenue and the wife is proudly sporting her new handbag that she got for a bargain, $15, 000. There is a limo with a driver waiting at the curb. All of a sudden there is a commotion and a heavyset black woman with disheveled hair rushes out of an upscale store and runs in their direction.

  • What is the husband’s reaction? Why?
  • What is the wife’s reaction? Why?
the power of thinking without thinking
The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
  • Thin slicing is an important survival skill.
  • We all do it!
  • We all hold stereotypes.
  • What are Stereotypes and why do we create them?
  • Stereotypes are simplified standardized concepts.
  • Stereotype creation is an innate survival strategy.
  • It is an automatic part of the cognitive process of concept development.
  • Stereotypes are consequences of our experiences.
back to the story impression
Back to the Story Impression
  • The heavy set black woman is a friend of mine, UN Assistant Secretary General Liz Thompson
  • She was rushing to her waiting limo and driver as she was late for a meeting with several Ambassadors at the UN Headquarters in New York.
  • The woman did grab her handbag and the gentleman did position himself between the lady and my friend.
  • I have no idea who the couple might be, neither does she.
the warren harding error
The Warren Harding Error
  • Compromise candidate in the 1920 Republican convention was president from March 4, 1921 to August 2, 1923.
  • A handsome and debonair young man
  • A suave and distinguished older man
  • Very affable
  • Easy-going

Why the term error?

  • When they work to our advantage they generate:
  • Privilege
  • When they work to our disadvantage they generate:
  • Threat
framing the discussion
Framing the Discussion
  • This is not about whether or not you have formed stereotypes, because you have
  • This is about whether or not the attributes that you ascribe to your stereotypes are valid, warranted or helpful
  • This is about how many of those stereotypes are shared by the people in your environment
  • This is about how those shared stereotypes affect the work in your environment
  • All terms used are as defined in the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing 1999 edition published by:
  • American Education Research Association
  • American Psychological Association
  • National Council of Measurement in Education
achievement gap
Achievement Gap?
  • Achievement Test: A test to evaluate the extent of knowledge or skill attained by a test taker in a content domain in which the test taker has received instruction [p.171 Standards].
  • Achievement Levels/Proficiency Levels: Description of a test taker’s competency in a particular area of knowledge or skill [p.171 Standards].
  • Performance Standard: An objective definition of a certain level of performance in some domain in terms of a range of scores on the score scale of a test measuring proficiency or achievement in that domain. [p.179 Standards].
additional important terms
Additional Important Terms
  • Error of Measurement: The difference between an observed score and the corresponding true level of achievement or proficiency of a test taker on an achievement test [p.175 Standards].
  • True Score: The average of the scores that would be earned by an individual on an unlimited number of perfectly parallel forms of the same test [p.184 Standards].
more terminology
More Terminology
  • Underperformance: The phenomenon where an individual or the members of a specific group consistently earn scores that underestimate their achievement levels/proficiency levels on an achievement test.
achievement versus performance
Achievement versus Performance
  • There is no doubt that there is a performance gap, that has been observed time and time again but is there an achievement gap?
  • Performance is an OBSERVATION
  • Achievement is an INFERENCE
  • Performance corresponds to the score on the assessment tool/achievement test
  • Achievement corresponds to the competency or skill in a particular area
  • While Performance is used as a proximal measure of Achievement they are NOT THE SAME! [Boykin & Noguera, 2011, p172-7, Rethinking Assessment]
  • Nationally there is a difference between the performance scores of different groups: This is a Performance Gap
  • Is this Performance Gap evidence of an Achievement Gap?
  • What is really going on when we use the term Achievement Gap?
  • What assumptions are we making?
  • What Stereotypes are we tacitly endorsing?
  • Do we have a good basis for making this leap?
strategy scenario how stereotypes work
Strategy Scenario: How Stereotypes work
  • “Dr. Clarke, our AP teacher told us that when we take our AP exam we should visualize ourselves as Asian Professors so we can get high scores on the test.”
  • What gender Professors do you see?
  • What strategies are being promoted?
  • What stereotypes are being reinforced?
  • Would this approach be effective, in your opinion?
stereotypes strategy analysis
Stereotypes: Strategy Analysis
  • Strategy: Visualization, a priming strategy linked to self-identification
  • Stereotypes: Asian, male, the “nerd” look all associated with greater intelligence
  • Effectiveness: Is it authentic? By visualizing themselves as Asian professors would they actually self-identify with either group?
  • Until the strategy is actually tested it is impossible to comment of its efficacy, however…
  • MY HYPOTHESIS: this strategy will not only fail to have a positive effect but it will reinforce negative stereotypes of the groups with which students may self-identify and thereby have a negative effect
  • Clearly there are some positive expectations associated with race, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, educational status, address….
  • What are some of the privileges that you expect as a result of your educational status?
flip side of privilege stereotype threat
Flip Side of Privilege: Stereotype Threat
  • What is it?
  • How do we know it exists?
  • Is the evidence robust?
  • Who does if affect?
  • What are the causes?
  • Are there solutions?
environmentally triggered emotions
1. Have you ever been in an environment [school, church, store,...] where you felt out of place like you did not fit in and you could not identify with any group there? How would you describe the emotions that you experienced in that setting?Environmentally Triggered emotions
situational triggered emotions
2. Did you have a position or were you in a situation where you felt that you needed to negotiate for acceptance? Where you felt you had to prove that you deserved to be there? If so describe how that made you feel?Situational Triggered Emotions
the evidence

The Evidence

It is manifest as a measurable impact on student performance most often characterized by under-performance



It is prevalent through out the educational system: in K-12 settings, college, medical school, law school, business school, art school, other professional schools

This is not a US phenomenon it is a global phenomenon

who is at risk

Who is at risk?

Blacks, Latinos, Women, Native Americans, Children in Poverty, Language Minority Students, White Men, Anyone whose identity can be linked to a negative stereotype related to performance

the importance of group identity
The Importance of Group Identity
  • Probably one of the most important social experiments in this area was conducted by and elementary school teacher in an elementary school
  • After the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968 Ms. Elliot of Riceville, Iowa conducted an experiment which showed the importance of group identity and the consequences of shared group stereotypes.
some signal experiments
Some Signal Experiments
  • White male students in math compared to Asian students:
  • “White male students taking the difficult eighteen item test, represented as one on which “Asians tend to do better than whites” performed, on average, a full three items worse than white male participants who were told nothing about the test” (Steele, 2010, p.91-2).
  • Similar experiments were done with Asian women who were either primed on being Asian or primed on being women. Asian priming produced better results gender priming produced worse results.
what is stereotype threat
What is Stereotype Threat?
  • In any situation “people are not only coping with the manifest tasks of the situation, but are also busy appraising threat and protecting themselves from the risk of being negatively judged and treated. Perhaps the chief discovery of our research is that the protective side of the human character can be aroused by the mere prospect of being negatively stereotyped, and that, once aroused, it steps in and takes over the capabilities of that person- to such an extent that little capacity is left for the work at hand” (Steele, 2010, p.214).
solutions to under performance
Solutions to Under-Performance
  • Change the conversation: Ability and intelligence are not intrinsic characteristics they are malleable properties, change how you give feedback
  • Brains continue to grow and change every day; neurogenesis, synaptogenesis, neural network construction and renovation are ongoing processes
  • Learning is a Dynamic nonlinear activity
  • Understand the Learning Progressions that lead to expert performance of target skills
  • Read Carol Dweck!
the rising tide lifts all vessels
The rising tide lifts all vessels!
  • “[T]hese practices hold promise for raising academic performance for virtually all students and accurately preparing them for the rigors, realities, and future responsibilities of the 21st century”(Boykin & Noguera, Creating the Opportunity to Learn, 2011, p.171)
  • Dweck, C. S (1999). Self-theories: Their role in motivation, personality, and development. Philadelphia: Psychology Press.
  • Dweck, C. S. (2007). The perils and promises of praise. Educational Leadership, 65(2), 34-39.
  • Dweck, C. S., & Leggett, E. L. (1988). A social-cognitive approach to motivation and personality. Psychological Review, 95(2), 256-273.
  • Education is not a zero-sum activity (Boykin & Noguera, 2011, p.160)
changing the conversation authentic communication
Changing the Conversation: Authentic Communication
  • Our first communication strategy is facial recognition
  • Babies spend upwards of the first six months studying faces intently
  • We first learn to read faces before we learn to use language
  • Simply giving teachers a new script will not change anything
  • We need to change the very “grammar” of teaching and learning (Boykin & Noguera, 2011, p.137)
  • Guide on Grammar: Danger of seemingly innocent comments, Robyn R Jackson (2009) p 138
race based targets 1
Race Based Targets 1
  • After you watch the NBC segment on Race Based Targets share any insight that you gleaned on the academic achievement potential of specific groups in US Public Schools?
nbc nightly news
NBC Nightly News
  • Some examples of the new NCLB Targets for Maryland Third Grade Reading Proficiency in 2017 are:

White: 96.10 %

Hispanic: 91.10 %

Black: 87.80 %

Why are there no targets for Asian students?

addendum academic targets by race
Addendum: Academic Targets by Race
  • How Many States Have Academic Performance Targets That Vary By Race?
  • By 03/07/2013 the Department of Education had approved waivers from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) … 23 states have now set targets that vary by race.
race based t argets
Race Based Targets?
  • What message does this send to students, parents, teachers, administrators, education policy makers, and anyone else even remotely connected to education?
  • How does this impact the problem of underperformance?
  • How does this impact the phenomenon of stereotype threat?
  • Is it helpful?
  • Robyn R. Jackson in her book Never Work Harder than Your Students & Other Principles of Great Teaching (2009) talks about the power of expectations in Chapter 3 : This may offer additional insight.
further information on stereotype threat
Further Information on Stereotype Threat
  • I would suggest that you read :
final thoughts
Final Thoughts
  • Boykin and Noguera, 2011, pp.170-182:
  • There are no silver bullets
  • Strong leadership
  • Parent involvement
  • Student engagement
  • Allow teachers to focus on what they know best: Teaching to the academic needs of their students
  • Teacher efficacy & high quality instruction are both important
  • “Under the right conditions, all children can achieve.”
  • It’s not about who you serve: it is about how you serve them!
thank you

Thank you!

Michael A. Clarke