Review the Theory and Evidence.

Recommendations and Strategies*

  • Teach females to self-affirm: In one study, self-affirmation improved the performance of women under stereotype threat, but did not affect the performance of men. Develop methods and interventions to target girls’ and women’s underestimation of their abilities in math and physical science.
  • Teach that intelligence is incremental: In an experimental study with middle school students, college student mentors taught middle school students to see that intelligence is incremental, not fixed, and to attribute poor performance to outward circumstances. The gender gap on math achievement as measured by standardized test scores disappeared for the students who had been mentored. Students have more motivation to succeed when they believe that intelligence is malleable. For example, if a student believes that hard work, rather than giftedness, at math is responsible for her math achievement, she will be more likely to achieve.
  • Provide professional development on supportive learning environments: Learning environments should convey the following messages: an incremental view of intelligence, no “overnight geniuses,” and praise for hard work instead of for being “smart.”
  • Address the limited development of expressive traits in boys and instrumental traits in girls: An understanding of the issues regarding the “limited development” of expressive traits in boys is beginning to surface. Also, if educators want to develop interests in nontraditional occupations, they can foster assertiveness, confidence, and mastery orientation in girls.
  • Utilize real-life teaching strategies: Some evidence suggests that pre-college programs that incorporate hands-on activities, role models, internships, and field trips tend to increase self-confidence and interest in STEM courses and careers.
  • Assess and retrain attribution style: Attribution style is the tendency for an individual to consistently attribute success or failure to a particular cause that is, habitually blaming failure on teacher bias. Ziegler and Heller (2000) applied retraining to girls in an 8thgrade physics course with a resulting positive change in attribution style. “Helping women to understand the importance of their attribution styles may be beneficial.

[pullquote align=”left”]The strength of a female’s self-efficacy is directly related to entry and persistence in NTOs.

Both attribution and fixed traits can affect motivation and confidence to achieve in nontraditional careers.

Threat Achievement is positively influence by the reduction in stereotype threat.[/pullquote]

Effective Practices and Resources

  • Daring Girls‘ game boosts self esteem, the Daring Game for Girls, for the Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS, packs a powerful lesson about girl power in an entertaining adventure.
  • Strategic Education Research Partnership researchers are currently testing a three-week summer program called Academic Youth Development, which provides students with the opportunity to learn about how the brain grows with new information, to study fundamental math processes, and to participate in accelerated math classes.
  • Interactive Effects in the Theory of Planned Behavior is an NSF-funded partnership between Dr. Bettina Casad and Dr. Faye Wachs at California State Polytechnic University and Azusa Unified School District. The partners are interviewing 600 middle school students, math teachers, counselors, and parents about stereotype threat. The final product will identify barriers and protective factors that affect math performance and career and course-taking plans. Preliminary findings indicate that girls in middle school are affected similarly to college students.
  • Project Implicit from Harvard University blends basic research and educational outreach in a virtual laboratory that enables visitors to examine their own hidden biases.
  • Tips for Reducing Stereotype Threat, along with additional valuable information about stereotype threat, have been collected and posted by Steven Stroessner and Catherine Good include the following: reframing the task, de-emphasizing threatened social identities, encouraging self-affirmation, emphasizing high standards with assurances about the capability for meeting them, providing role models, providing external attributions for difficulty, and emphasizing an incremental view of intelligence.
  • When Teachers Highlight Gender, Kids Pick Up Stereotypes When preschool teachers call attention to gender in any way, kids pick up on it. A new study found that in classrooms where boys and girls line up separately – and even in settings where teachers say things like, “Good morning boys and girls” – children express more stereotypes about gender and even discriminate when deciding who to play with. “The children in these classrooms expressed less interest in playing with children of the other sex,” said developmental psychologist Lynn Liben of Pennsylvania State University, who conducted the study with graduate student Lacey Hilliard. “Not only in surveys, but we also observed kids playing in free playtime, and there was a significant drop in the amount of time children in those classrooms were seen playing with children of the other sex.”
  • ‘Gender Gap’ in Physics Exams Reduced by Simple Writing Exercise
  • Reducing Stereotype Threat in the Classroom (Bettina J. Casad) describes how educators can help eliminate stereotype threat by altering the academic environment to be safe for all students.