Deconstructing Stereotype / Stereotype Threat: Moving Towards Being a More Culturally Responsive Teacher

Here are a series of resources that can quickly be shaped into mentoring activities to enhance understandings about the ways that stereotype and stereotype threat create inequities in the classroom. The assumption made in these materials is that we all maintain stereotypes to a certain degree, and that we must continually work to demythologize our lens to promote social justice in the classroom.

I. Initial Discussion on Stereotyping

When first discussing stereotypes with beginning teachers, it would be helpful to unpack what stereotype is, and what stereotypes teachers may maintain. This would be a time for the mentor to encourage honesty in the group to unearth and confront these stereotypes. Here are a few helpful terms for this discussion. Groups can be classified as "in-groups" or "out-groups." Members of in-groups identify themselves as "we" and "us," while an out-group is a group or category to which people feel they do not belong (Schaefer, 2012, pg. 120). An in-group may be very small (like a clique in high school) or very large (most of a given society). However, the existence of an in-group implies an out-group, whose members are often referred to as "they" or "them." Often, unfortunately, privileged in-groups create or borrow stereotypes--"unreliable generalizations about all members of a group that do not recognize individual differences within the group"--to project upon out-groups as a way of maintaining power (Schaefer, 2012, pg. 239).

Here are some questions that a mentor might ask a cohort of beginning teachers about stereotypes to get them thinking about this issue:

(A) Identity (2) stereotypes that you see perpetuated in society. What is the purpose of these identified stereotypes?

(B) Have you held any stereotypes in the past? Where did these stereotypes originate? How did you uproot these stereotypes? Do you currently maintain any stereotypes? Discuss.

(C) What is the impact of stereotyping upon education in the US?

II. Detoxing the Myths that Fuel Stereotyping

Here are two readings to share with the cohort of first year teachers to stimulate a discussion of stereotype and its impact upon schoolchildren:

James, C. E. (2012). Students ‘at risk’: Stereotypes and the schooling of black boys. Urban Education, 47(2), 464-494.

Detox, by Vidal Chavannes: Great work on stereotype and myth, especially in regards to Blacks. Very short work; at 100 pages, this can be read quickly for a discussion exercise. Since this text is currently priced at $6.84 on, this work can be readily purchased by schools even on tight budgets for a cohort of first-year teachers to discuss to meet the outcomes of this module. Link to Chavannes' "detox"

These two recommended works by James (2012) and Chavannes (2010) could be discussed in a single 90 minute professional development session after school.

III. The Power of Stereotypes

Here is a fine video on stereotyping that will engender discussion on the power of stereotyping:

IV. What is stereotype threat?

Here is a great resource for discussion of stereotype threat. Schmader's article, being short, can be quickly read by members participating in professional development to enhance cultural responsiveness:

Schmader, T. (2010). Stereotype threat deconstructed. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 19(1), 14-18.

So, how do we reduce stereotype threat in the classroom?

Here are some compelling readings that will promote discussion on this issue:

Selections from Buckelew, M. J. B., & Fishman, A. (2010). Reaching and teaching diverse populations: Moving beyond stereotypes. New York, NY: Sage Publications, Inc.

Alter, A. L., Aronson, J., Darley, J. M., Roderiguez, C., & Ruble, D. N. (2010). Rising to the threat: Reducing stereotype threat by reframing the threat as challenge. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46, 166-171.

Dixon, J. C., & Rosenbaum, M. S. (2004). Nice to know you? Testing contact, cultural, and group threat theories of anti-Black and anti-Hispanic stereotypes. Social Science Quarterly, 85(2), 257-280.

V. Re-framing One's Practice

After covering all or some of these resources, the mentor will ask inductees to create an activity that works to enhance understanding about the nature of stereotyping and stereotype threat. Teachers will generate a lesson plan, harvest artifacts, and write a short reflection about how this activity led to productive transformations. These findings will be submitted to the mentor. Additionally, the mentor will meet with the participating cohort for a concluding discussion of the impacts of these experiences.