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Literacy 7-12

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Literacy 7-12 > Factors > Stereotype Threat

Stereotype Threat

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Many stereotypes exist about the academic performance of learners based on categories such as race, gender, and socioeconomic status. Stereotype Threat suggests that people can underperform in many academic areas, including learning to read and write, when faced with this prospect of being judged.

Main Ideas

Stereotype Threat occurs when a negative stereotype that exists in a culture about a group results in suboptimal academic performance by members of that group. This can impact performance even in classrooms where the learner does not personally experience prejudiced behavior toward them by teachers or peers. This is particularly true on tests where students are told the test is diagnostic of their intellectual abilities. Also, individuals who do not believe the stereotype is true about their group will often still experience the negative effects of Stereotype Threat.

People can hold two types of stereotypes:

  • People may be unaware of their implicit stereotypes, but these beliefs can still impact their behaviors towards and interpretations of others in an unconscious manner.
  • People are aware of their explicit stereotypes, which can also impact their behaviors towards and interpretations of others.

In the United States, Stereotype Threat impacts literacy for multiple groups:

  • Certain groups, such as Latino/Latina and Black students, are at risk of negative stereotypes of reading and writing ability.
  • Boys are at risk of Stereotype Threat because of the general belief that girls are better at reading and writing.
  • Students who have learning disabilities are also at risk for being stigmatized.
  • Negative stereotypes will impact reading performance in students who most highly value achievement in the literacy domain.

Students are forming their identity during adolescence. As they grow older they are more able to engage in deeper reflection about their own personal racial and ethnic identity and how it fits into society. This makes adolescents particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of stereotype threat.

Learn More

  • Gender, Race, and Ethnic Identity: Subtopic that explores various ways students' identity and experiences of discrimination affect outcomes on Digital Promise's Research Map
  • Stereotype Threat: Subtopic that explores how social stigmas related to race, gender, and other identifiers can affect students' academic outcomes on Digital Promise's Research Map

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