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STEMming the Tide

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					   STEMMING
   THE TIDE:
Coping with Stereotype
Threat In Math &
Science Learning


                   Matthew S. McGlone
            Department of Communication Studies
              The University of Texas at Austin
             matthew_mcglone@mail.utexas.edu
Prejudices, it is well known, are most
difficult to eradicate from the heart
whose soil has never been fertilized by
education; they grow there, firm as
weeds among the rocks.

          - Charlotte Bronte (1851)
I told my literary agent I want to help
middle-school girls stay interested in
math and be good at it, and see it as
friendly and accessible and not this
scary thing. Everyone else in society
tells them it's not for them. It's for
nerdy white guys with pocket
protectors. This is how 75 percent of all
science is depicted on television.

The message they're getting instead is:
It's really cool to be dumb. Look at
Jessica Simpson. She's famous for
being dumb. I guess it started with
Marilyn Monroe, and she actually
wasn't that dumb, but that's how she
was perceived -- and that's what got
popular.
            - Danica McKellar (2007)
        Underachievement of
      Black and Latino Students
Post-education: overrepresented in US Prison
 population; clear link to underperformance
                     in school
 College: approximately 1/2 as likely to go as
  European American students; about 2x as
          likely to drop out if they do
  High School: high drop out rates; no
improvement since No Child Left Behind
  K-12: Lower standardized test scores and
      grades; gap widens as students
           move through school
    Underachievement of Girls and
     Women in STEM Education
Graduate School: while outperforming men in all other
   areas of academia, women earn less than 25% of
           advanced degrees in STEM fields
College: women perform worse on standardized tests
of mathematics but do well in their courses; far fewer
               choose STEM majors

  Middle School: girls earn equally high grades but
 begin to lose confidence in math abilities; test score
          gap on standardized tests emerges
K-12: girls perform at or above the same level as boys
on tests and in school, but show less intrinsic interest
 in spatial tasks and hypothetico-deductive reasoning
Common Explanations for Ethnic
Academic Achievement Gaps
     Common Explanations for Ethnic
     Academic Achievement Gaps
1. Lower innate intelligence of ethnic minorities
   – Rushton (1984): more offspring / less nurturing  low intelligence

   – Herrnstein & Murray (1989): The Bell Curve

   – DNA pioneer James Watson (2008): “Gloomy prospects for Africa”
     Common Explanations for Ethnic
     Academic Achievement Gaps
1. Lower innate intelligence of ethnic minorities
   – Rushton (1984): more offspring / less nurturing  low intelligence

   – Herrnstein & Murray (1989): The Bell Curve

   – DNA pioneer James Watson (2008): “Gloomy prospects for Africa”

2. Poverty  lower skills and preparation
     Common Explanations for Ethnic
     Academic Achievement Gaps
1. Lower innate intelligence of ethnic minorities
   – Rushton (1984): more offspring / less nurturing  low intelligence

   – Herrnstein & Murray (1989): The Bell Curve

   – DNA pioneer James Watson (2008): “Gloomy prospects for Africa”

2. Poverty  lower skills and preparation

3. Cultures that encourage anti-intellectualism,
  characterize academic success as “acting white”
Common Explanations for Sex-Based
    STEM Achievement Gaps
 Common Explanations for Sex-Based
     STEM Achievement Gaps
1. Biology
  •   Geary (1998): evolutionary pressures yield sexual dimorphism in
      reasoning and communication abilities
  •   Baron-Cohen (2001): prenatal testosterone levels shape male
      (systemizing) vs. female (empathizing) brains
 Common Explanations for Sex-Based
     STEM Achievement Gaps
1. Biology
  •   Geary (1998): evolutionary pressures yield sexual dimorphism in
      reasoning and communication abilities
  •   Baron-Cohen (2001): prenatal testosterone levels shape male
      (systemizing) vs. female (empathizing) brains

2. Socialization
  •   McGillicuddy-De Lisi (1998): girls receive less encouragement to
      pursue STEM studies than boys
 Common Explanations for Sex-Based
     STEM Achievement Gaps
1. Biology
  •   Geary (1998): evolutionary pressures yield sexual dimorphism in
      reasoning and communication abilities
  •   Baron-Cohen (2001): prenatal testosterone levels shape male
      (systemizing) vs. female (empathizing) brains

2. Socialization
  •   McGillicuddy-De Lisi (1998): girls receive less encouragement to
      pursue STEM studies than boys

3. Nature-Nurture Interaction
  • “…by nature implanted, for nurture to enlarge”
      (Merchant Taylor‟s School Headmaster Richard Mulcaster, 1581)
Human intelligence is among the
most fragile things in nature. It
doesn’t take much to distract it,
suppress it, or even annihilate it.

             – Neil Postman (1990)
Social Factors Influence
Intellectual Performance
• Interpersonal “chemistry”
  – rapport affects intellectual engagement in conversation; the more
    comfortable we are in another‟s presence, the more witty we appear
    to them and to observers (McGlone & Aronson, 1997)
Social Factors Influence
Intellectual Performance
• Interpersonal “chemistry”
  – rapport affects intellectual engagement in conversation; the more
    comfortable we are in another‟s presence, the more witty we appear
    to them and to observers (McGlone & Aronson, 1997)

• Self-presentational concerns
  – evaluation apprehension (Cottrell, 1972)
Social Factors Influence
Intellectual Performance
• Interpersonal “chemistry”
  – rapport affects intellectual engagement in conversation; the more
    comfortable we are in another‟s presence, the more witty we appear
    to them and to observers (McGlone & Aronson, 1997)

• Self-presentational concerns
  – evaluation apprehension (Cottrell, 1972)

• Self-fulfilling prophecies
  – Pygmalion Effect: Students‟ academic performance influenced by
    teachers‟ positive or negative expectations (Rosenthal, 1968)
  – Stereotype / Social Identity Threat
  Stereotype/Social IdentityThreat
Psychological discomfort people experience when they are
concerned about a) being judged in terms of a negative social or
personal stereotype or b) doing something that would
inadvertently confirm the stereotype.

                       stereotype
                        is salient



       resemble                         apprehension,
      stereotype                         distraction


                       intellectual
                        disruption
          Stereotype Threat Scenarios




                                      black students making class
girls, women taking math tests   presentation to white students, teacher




        men pursuing                 male prof lecturing on sexist
       nursing degrees               communication at Bryn Mawr
      Stereotype Threat Scenarios




    Dan Quayle, 1992          George W. Bush, 2008

  The “Tongue-Tied Technocrat” Stereotype Threat
Hypothesis (Fallows, 2004; Aronson & McGlone, 2008)
 Stereotype Threat and Speech Anxiety




Bush-Richards Debate, 1994              Bush-Kerry Debates, 2004

   …in 1994, Bush was eloquent. He spoke quickly and easily. He rattled
   off complicated sentences and brought them to the right grammatical
   conclusions. He mishandled a word or two, but fewer than most people
   would in an hour's debate. More striking, he did not pause before
   forcing out big words, as he so often does now, or invent mangled new
   ones. (James Fallows, Atlantic Monthly, 2004).
      Stereotype Threat and
      Academic Achievement




• ST is a situational phenomenon that can account
 for a significant portion of ethnic and gender
 gaps in test performance and academic
 achievement.

• ST elicited by cues operating in the classroom
  and/or testing context.
                                    Cues to Stereotype Threat:
                                          Test Framing
                  Racial Differences in                                  Gender Differences in
                  Verbal Performance                                      Math Performance
                                                                                        100




                                                                (controlling for SAT)
   (controlling for SAT)




                                                   White                                                       Men
    Test Performance




                                                                 Test Performance
                           13
                                                   Black                                80
                                                                                                               Women
                           10
                                                                                        60


                           7
                                                                                        40


                           4
                                                                                        20


                           1                                                             0
                                Verbal Ability Class Exercise                                 Math Ability    Problem
                                     Test Description                                                         Solving
                                                                                                   Test Description
Steele & Aronson (1995)                                                          Johns, Schmader, & Martens (2005)
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology                                     Psychological Science
Cues to Stereotype Threat:
    Identity Salience
                woman         Latina
       daughter                    sister             Ascribed
  aunt            Houstonian
          UT student         biology major
                                                         Vs.
  athlete                                             Achieved
                  girlfriend
                                                      Identities




                                             Situationally salient
                                             identity can boost
                                             or impair intellectual
                                             performance
      Vandenberg Mental
      Rotation Test (MRT)



• produces largest documented gender gap in any
  cognitive ability (Halpern, 1992; De Lisi, 2001)

• a meta-analysis containing 286 data sets and 100,000
  participants found a highly significant male advantage for
  mental rotation (d = .9); this pattern remains stable
  across age and has decreased little in recent years.
                     Identity Salience Influences Women‟s
                         Mental Rotation Performance
                25                                                                 WOMEN

                                                                                   MEN

                20
    MRT SCORE




                15




                10




                5
                          GENDER       "ELITE COLLEGE" STUDENT           CONTROL


McGlone & Aronson (2006). Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology.
                     Identity Salience Influences Women‟s
                         Mental Rotation Performance
                25
                                                                                   WOMEN

                                                                                   MEN

                20
    MRT SCORE




                15




                10




                5
                          GENDER       "ELITE COLLEGE" STUDENT           CONTROL


McGlone & Aronson (2006). Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology.
                     Identity Salience Influences Women‟s
                         Mental Rotation Performance
                25
                                                                                   WOMEN

                                                                                   MEN

                20
    MRT SCORE




                15




                10




                5
                          GENDER          "ELITE COLLEGE" STUDENT        CONTROL


McGlone & Aronson (2006). Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology.
                                   Cues to Stereotype Threat:
                                Recent Exposure to Stereotype Info.
                                Effects on Women’s                                            Effects on Women’s
                                Career Preferences                                           Leadership Preference

                                                                                      7
                            7
                                  Language careers                                        Subordinate role
                                                                                      6   Leadership role
                            6     Math careers
       Career Preferences




                                                                   Role Preferences
                            5                                                         5



                            4                                                         4



                            3                                                         3



                            2                                                         2



                            1                                                         1

                                  Neutral            Stereotypic                          Neutral            Stereotypic
                                 TV Commercials                                                TV Commercials
Davies, Spencer, Quinn, & Gerhardstein (2002) Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Davies, Spencer, & Steele (2005) Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
        Cues to Stereotype Threat
• Framing assessment as a measure of ability
• Stigmatized social identities made salient
• Recent exposure to stereotype information

ST effects shown for:
• All educational levels (elementary, middle, high
  school, college)
• ethnic minorities AND majorities targeted by negative
  intellectual stereotypes
• girls, women in STEM learning contexts
        Conclusions from ~ 200 Published
          Studies on Stereotype Threat
• Impairment occurs both on tests and in terms of GPA
• Impairment on tests results from anxiety, reduced working
   memory capacity; impaired self-regulation; not typically a
   function of giving up
• fMRI studies show that threat elicits high amygdala activation
• Can affect elite or non-elite students
• Can arise as a function of simply mixing students
• Leads women to express less interest in math and science, and
   even bifurcate their identities
Strategies for Reducing Stereotype
     Threat in STEM Learning
Reducing Stereotype Threat
             Solution 1: Provide Role Models

                      20                                     Men
Math Test Accuracy
(corrected for SAT)
                                                             Women

                      15




                      10




                      5




                      0

                           Male Tutor /             Female Tutor /
                           Adminstrator             Adminstrator

                            Marx & Roman (2002)
                            Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
       Reducing Stereotype Threat
 Solution 2: Threat Inoculation through Education

• Train our educators to be „wise mentors‟
   – discuss, challenge stereotypes among students
   – set high standards but assure students that they can meet them


• Emphasizing skill over ability
   – highlight that learning is an incremental process


• Fostering a sense of belonging
   – help students reappraise the meaning of adversity
          Reducing Stereotype Threat
    Solution 2: Threat Inoculation through Education
              100
               95                                                   Males
               90                                                   Females
     End of
    the Year   85
   Math Test   80
  Performance 75
               70
               65
               60
                         Intelligence is   Experiencing         Control
                          Incremental      Difficulty is
                                             Normal
                                      Type of Intervention
Good, Aronson, & Inzlicht (2003) Applied Developmental Psychology
      Reducing Stereotype Threat
 Solution 2: Threat Inoculation through Education
• Teaching our educators to be „wise mentors‟
   – speak out against the stereotype
   – set high standards but assure students that they can meet them


• Emphasizing skill over ability
   – highlight that learning is an incremental process


• Fostering a sense of belonging
   – help students reappraise the meaning of adversity


• Unveiling the effects of stereotype threat
   – point out that stereotype threat is an external explanation for anxiety
                   Teaching about Stereotype Threat
                 Inoculates Students Against Its Effects
                               100
      Accuracy on Math Items

                                                                      Men
                               80
                                                                      Women
                               60

                               40

                               20

                                 0
                                     Math Ability Problem Solving Math Ability
                                        Test           Task        Test + ST
                                                                    Briefing
McGlone & Aronson (2007). Communication Education
                    Reducing Stereotype Threat
   Solution 3: Recognize that Standardized Tests
                    are Two-Way Communication Channels

                    ETS Study: Asking Gender Before AP Calculus
                    Test Hurts Girls, Helps Boys (Stricker, 2004)

                   16
                   14
AP Formula Score




                   12
                   10
                                                               Female
                   8                                           Male
                   6
                   4
                   2
                   0
                         Inquiry Before       Inquiry After
Danaher and Crandall (2008)
Reanalysis of Stricker‟s data
 “Female students benefited substantially
on the calculus test when demographics
were asked after testing rather than before.
This simple, small, and inexpensive change
could increase U.S. girls receiving AP
Calculus credit by more than 4,700 every
year” (p. 293).
 Implications For our Work as Teachers
• Understand and teach students that intelligence,
  performance, motivation are fragile; learn to expect
  ups and downs
• Teach students that their abilities can expand
• Expose students to role models who, like them,
  experience difficulties but overcome
• Use cooperative group work; reduce competition
• Give feedback in ways that don‟t undermine
  motivation; high standards and support to meet
  standards
             Thanks!
Comments and questions are welcome! Please send
them to:

Matt McGlone
Department of Communication Studies
The University of Texas at Austin
1 University Station A1105
Austin, TX 78712
e-mail: matthew_mcglone@mail.utexas.edu
Phone: 512-471-1920

				
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