Better Approaches to Well-Intentioned, but Harmful Messages (Case Study 1)
Overcoming Stereotype Threat to Improve Retention
Students often approach education as a search for their inherent talents, rather than development of new abilities, because they believe that intelligence is unchanging. This belief leads students to drop challenging subjects when faced with initial difficulties or stereotype threats. A successful intervention designed to short-circuit this process was studied by Good et al. (2003). The intervention had four steps:
- College students mentored seventh-graders and taught them that intelligence can be increased.
- Mentors attributed any learning difficulties to the situation instead of students' shortcomings.
- Mentors gave the seventh-graders access to information about how the brain forms new connections over time.
- The middle-school students communicated what they had learned about the expandable nature of intelligence to others.
Results of this experimental intervention included improved test performance and no gender gap in test performance. Other interventions produced similar results when students were encouraged to believe that intelligence increases through practice and effort. And some experiments showed that in certain situations, it was enough simply to tell students that the test they were about to take had never shown gender differences in outcomes.
TRUE STEREOTYPE THREATS FROM COMPUTING EDUCATION - AND RECOMMENDATIONS FOR AVOIDING THEM
Calling attention to women's underrepresentation in computing can cause stereotype threat, even when it is well-intended. These true stories illustrate problems and suggest solutions.
- http://www.reducingstereotypethreat.org offers a useful summary of the literature including information about minimizing stereotype threat.
- Good, C., Aronson, J., Inzlicht, M. (2003). Improving adolescents’ standardized test performance: An intervention to reduce the effects of stereotype threat. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 24(6), 645-662.
- Good, C. Aronson, J., Harder, J. (2008). Problems in the pipeline. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 29(1), 17-28.
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Author: J. McGrath Cohoon