A Mother’s Request
While attending a community event, a mother raised her hand to share concerns regarding her daughter’s education. She recommended to district leaders that parents have the option to access their child’s classroom via technology to support with nightly homework assignments. The frustration centered around solving the multiplication fact- 6 X 3. According to the mother, the new curriculum explored multiple ways to solve this math problem. The mother expressed that based on how she learned multiplication facts in school this hindered her ability to support her daughter’s learning. Thus, she stated that if she could see how the teacher taught the process, then she could better support her daughter’s math development.
Is Something in the Air?
As she continued to talk, the mother became emotional about her child’s in-school experiences related to the district’s new math curriculum. She stated that her daughter has begun to doubt herself and her abilities as a student. Her exact words were “my child feels dumb”. She explained that “it is not just her, I have talked to her friends, and they feel the same way, too.” The hairs on my arms stood up as she unknowingly explained a phenomenon that researchers of black and brown children have been investigating for years known as the stereotype threat or that “threat in the air.”
A stereotype threat is a situational threat that in general can affect the members of that group where negative (societal) stereotypes exist. Over 300 studies have extensively investigated the outcomes of academic performance in multiple settings with different populations, but much of the research on the stereotype threat has been done with college students and adults. Claude M. Steele is credited with uncovering and explaining the stereotype threat in academia how it can translate to performance on tests.
It is my position that these threats begin early in a child’s academic journey and are intensified by the time students reach post-secondary institutions.
Have you heard statements like the one above from your child or students?
Return to my next blog post to determine how we can identify and minimize the stereotype threat in K-12 classrooms for our learners.