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Tiny Thoughts: Stereotype Threat

Tiny Thoughts: Stereotype Threat
Photo by Kenny Eliason / Unsplash
  • This was a concept I discovered reading The Expectation Effect.  There was a chapter on how a teacher’s expectations can shape the development of students.  The findings were scary.
  • A teacher’s expectations can have a profound impact on how well a student does in the class.  It’s really confirmation bias at work.  If a teacher expects a student to struggle, they are constantly looking for reasons they won’t succeed and can be setting a lower bar for that student.
  • Obviously, given all the biases out in the world, unconscious or not, this can have a huge impact on continuing gender and racial differences.
  • While we can’t control teachers or other influences, we can equip ourselves and our children with knowledge of Stereotype Threat. We can teach our kids to acknowledge any anxiety in the classroom is coming from external sources, not themselves.  Our kids can view the butterflies in their stomach before a test as their body helping them prepare to focus rather than stress that they will fail as their teacher might have expected.
  • For you, as a family member or role model to someone else, don’t discourage certain gender specific behaviors.  A girl playing with dinosaurs or Legos doesn’t need your surprised comment about how you think that’s usually for boys.  Comments like that can plant a seed in a child's money and their view of themselves can change.  The intention is usually not sinister but this is how stereotype threat has such an impact.
  • Kids are sponges.  Encourage a growth mindset where they believe in themselves and feel supported.