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‘What makes you susceptible is caring about doing well’: Claude Steele on stereotype threat

Students who are affected by stereotypes can underperform despite being highly qualified in a particular area.
Students who are affected by stereotypes can underperform despite being highly qualified in a particular area, according to GSE emeritus professor Claude Steele. (Photo: Steve Debenport/Getty Images)

‘What makes you susceptible is caring about doing well’: Claude Steele on stereotype threat

On this episode of "School’s In," how the fear of confirming a negative stereotype can hurt students’ performance.

Negative stereotypes—about race, age, gender, religion, even the region of the country a family is from—could undermine students’ performance at school even if they’re well prepared, according to GSE emeritus professor Claude Steele.

“When you're in a situation where a bad idea about one of those identities is relevant to what you're doing,” Steele said, you could underperform—but only if you care about doing well.

On this episode of School’s In, Steele joined GSE Dean Dan Schwartz and Senior Lecturer Denise Pope to talk about the phenomenon of stereotype threat, how it can affect a child’s achievement and what parents and teachers can do to ease the impact.

It can show up, he said, during a parent-teacher conference between a white teacher and minority parents whose child is having trouble at school.

“The minority family is worried: Are you seeing the true promise and talents of my kid, or are you stereotyping him?” Steele said. “And the teacher is worried about saying anything critical and being seen as racist. That’s American history visiting that conversation right there, and the form it takes is stereotype threat.”

Listen from the link below, and find more episodes of School's In at the Stanford Radio main page. The show airs Saturdays on SiriusXM Insight Channel 121.

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